Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Curriculum and Instruction
This mixed methods study aimed to explore the influences that female STEM College students encountered to reach a decision about their major and how these influences effected the development of STEM identity. A detailed description of their lived experiences enriched the quantitative data collected in the study; allowing the participants to control the narrative informed by quantitative data makes this study unique. The study aimed to answer three questions: What factors influence science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) identity development in female undergraduate students majoring in STEM? How do identified influences shape participants’ STEM identity? How does STEM identity influence female undergraduate students’ STEM persistence? To answer those questions a modified version of the Persistence Research in Science and Engineering survey was used followed by semi structured interviews. Social cognitive career and feminist theories framed the study. Social cognitive theory was used to understand the influence that the “cognitive person” variables such as self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and personal goals have on career development. Feminist theory was used because of its focus on equity and justice for women and oppressed others. 38female STEM undergraduate students were surveyed. Eight of those surveyed were randomly chosen to conduct semi-structured interviews. The results showed that although women are still underrepresented in STEM, great strides have been made to introduce STEM in K-12 settings. Survey participants and interviewees also self-reported elevated levels of STEM self-efficacy, meaning they saw themselves as STEM people and had high, strong beliefs in their abilities to accomplish STEM related tasks. Lastly, participants suggested that improvements could be made to retain more female students in STEM majors if better support systems were put in place at the university level and if more female faculty could be hired as role models to female STEM students. Recommendations on how STEM administrators, faculty, and staff could recruit and retain female STEM students were given. Also, suggestions for future research in the scholarship of female STEM recruitment and persistence were also provided. Keywords: STEM identity, self-efficacy, persistence, recruitment, Female STEM students
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