Large Empirical Emerging Topics: CareerWise II: Enhanced Resilience Training for STEM Women in an Interactive Multimodal Web-Based Environment

Project: Research project

Description

Recent studies reveal that gender is the strongest predictor of attrition from PhD programs in the physical sciences and engineering (CGS, 2008). The CareerWISE (CW) research program seeks to understand and attenuate the loss of committed women from science and engineering doctoral programs. CW is the first empirically-based approach to offering STEM women a comprehensive course of psychological education via the web; it includes materials designed to strengthen womens personal psychological resources and interpersonal skills for mobilizing support and overcoming obstacles. In the proposed project (CW II), we extend our previous work by developing and testing a unique interactive, multimodal learning environment for improving interpersonal communication and problem-solving skills among STEM women. The overarching research question is whether deliberate resilience training delivered via the internetcan strengthen women students' persistence in STEM doctoral programs. Intellectual Merit: The proposed set of interrelated studies contribute to the knowledge base in several fields in significant ways: we clarify what occurs during the STEM doctoral program that leads some women to decide to drop out, to leave with a masters degree, or to change fields in lieu of completing the PhD program; we test the application of instructional design principles in an interactive, web-based environment targeted to STEM graduate students and soft skills; and we examine the role of interpersonal communication and problem-solving skills in womens coping efficacy and decision to persist. The proposed work will involve a broadly interdisciplinary team of graduate students and faculty from the learning and psychological sciences, instructional design, communications, media and theater, computer science and engineering in three phases: content development, design and testing, and theorybuilding. During content development, a set of critical incident scenarios will be constructed with specific examples of what women in our early focus groups found stressful or discouraging: difficulties with advisors, unfriendly environments for women, undesirable trade-offs between work and personal life, and impediments to research and timely progress. In Design and Testing, we will create and optimize an interactive and situational web-based application that allows STEM women to role-play response alternatives in potential real-life situations and evaluate the effectiveness of the application in strengthening communication and problem-solving skills. During the theory-building phase, we will examine womens experiences in science and engineering doctoral programs in the context of their ongoing lives, how natural events, conditions, barriers and supports encourage or discourage them and contribute to decisions to leave or stay, and whether interpersonal communication and problem-solving skills moderate the relationship between barriers and negative events on the one hand and persistence in STEM on the other. We also consider the relationship between womens communication and problemsolving skills and their perceptions of satisfaction and fit with the program and field, the quality of working relationships with advisors and colleagues, and confidence in the ability to build personal supports and navigate any challenges that arise in the program and future professional environments. Broader Impacts: The purpose of CW II is to increase the proportion of women who persist in STEM doctoral programs and thereby broaden the participation of women in academic, research, and policy careers in science and engineering. Although currently aimed at women in doctoral programs, the materials are easily scalable, can be customized for underrepresented minorities, undergraduate students, teachers and faculty, and can be adapted for use in classrooms, workshops, and seminars. As a comprehensive and highly visible psychological education progr

Description

We have accomplished a great deal since the award of the CWII grant (Large Empirical Emerging Topics: CareerWISE II: Enhanced Resilience Training for STEM Women in an Interactive, Multimodal Web-Based Environment) in 2009. However, we have had a number of unanticipated cost overruns due to the necessary software programming expertise and the costs of assembling test populations. Additionally, we find ourselves needing more time to bring the various projects to completion and publication. This request is for a $400,00 supplement to grant #0910384, along with an extension of spending authority for CWII residuals and supplemental funds to August 31, 2014. Since its inception, the CareerWISE (CW) research program has sought to understand the loss of committed women from science and engineering doctoral programs and investigate the effectiveness of an online intervention to attenuate attrition. CW is the first empirically based approach to offering STEM women a comprehensive course of psychological education via the web. A primary research question is whether deliberate resilience training can strengthen womens skills in building personal supports and overcoming barriers and ultimately raise their persistence in STEM doctoral programs. In CW II, we proposed to extend the online resilience-training program (http://careerwise.asu.edu/) by developing and testing a unique interactive, multimodal learning environment for improving interpersonal communication and problem-solving skills among STEM women. In design and testing, we planned to create and optimize an interactive and situational web-based application that allows STEM women to select response alternatives in potential reallife situations and then evaluate and observe the effectiveness of the application in strengthening communication and problem-solving skills. During the theory-building phase, we examine womens experiences in science and engineering doctoral programs in the context of their ongoing lives, how natural events, conditions, barriers and supports encourage or discourage them and contribute to decisions to leave or stay, and whether interpersonal communication and problem-solving skills moderate the relationship between barriers and negative events on the one hand and persistence in STEM on the other. We also consider the relationship between womens communication and problem-solving skills and their perceptions of satisfaction and fit with the program and field, the quality of working relationships with advisors and colleagues, and confidence in the ability to build personal supports and navigate any challenges that arise in the program and future professional environments.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date9/15/098/31/15

Funding

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $2,199,164.00

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resilience
interpersonal communication
engineering
science
persistence
event
communication
learning environment
confidence
graduate
education
student
ability
life situation
role play
costs
drop-out