Publication Date

2017

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

First Advisor

Wilkins, Elizabeth A.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Department

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations

LCSH

Educational psychology||Engineering||Educational sociology||Science--Study and teaching

Abstract

From a sociocultural point of view, this qualitative case study explored how upper-level, female undergraduate engineering students perceived the possibility of or experience with stereotype threat as shaping their experiences. The study also investigated how these students explained their reasons for choosing their engineering major, the challenges they encountered in the major, and their reasons for persevering in spite of those challenges. Using Steele and Aronson's (1995) stereotype threat theory as a framework, and considering the documented underrepresentation of females in engineering, the study sought to examine how stereotype threat shaped the experiences of these students and if stereotype threat could be considered a valid reason for the underrepresentation. The study was conducted at a large, four-year public university. First, students in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology completed the Participant Screening Survey. Based on responses from the survey, six female engineering students from the college were identified and invited to participate in the study. The participants came from the following majors: Electrical Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. After receiving the study consent letter and agreeing to participate, the students were involved in a 90-minute focus group meeting, a 45-minute one-on-one interview, and a 30-minute follow-up interview. After conducting the data collection methods, the data were then transcribed, analyzed, and coded for theme development. The themes that emerged coincided with each research question. The themes highlighted the complex interactions and experiences shared by the female engineering majors. The female students were enveloped in an environment where there existed an increased risk for activating stereotype threat. In addition, the female students described feeling pushed to prove to themselves and to others that the negative stereotype that 'females are bad at engineering' was untrue. The findings illustrated the need for systematic changes at the university level. Intervention recommendations were provided. In regards to female underrepresentation in science fields, including engineering, stereotype threat certainly had the potential to cause the female students to question themselves, their abilities, their choice of an academic major, and subsequently remove themselves from a hostile learning or working environment. Thus, educational institutions and workplace organizations are responsible for not only educating themselves regarding stereotype threat, but also for taking steps to alleviate the pernicious effects of stereotype threat.

Comments

Advisors: Elizabeth A. Wilkins.||Committee members: Daryl Dugas; Nicole Ladue.||Includes bibliographical references.

Extent

viii, 218 pages

Language

eng

Publisher

Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type

Text

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