High school math and science teachers' awareness gender-equity issues from a research-based workshop

Stephen Krause, Veronica Burrows, Judy Sutor, Marilyn Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the past decade the first-time enrollment of females in undergraduate engineering has not increased and remains at about 20%, in spite of ongoing K-12 engineering gender diversity programs. The underlying cause for the decline is not cognitive ability or academic performance. Instead, the cause has sociocultural roots that create barriers to female participation in science and engineering education and careers. The research literature shows that some of the most important STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) participation barriers along the educational pathway from K-12 to undergraduate engineering include: "chilly climate" in science classrooms; lack of tinkering self efficacy; lack of technical self efficacy; lack of societal relevance of STEM careers; and lack of female and minority STEM role models. This work presents the results of a research-based workshop on issues that inhibit females from enrolling in college curricula that lead to STEM degrees and careers. The workshop was presented to 48 high school math and science teachers (80% female and 20% male) from four school districts who were participating in a four-course sequence of math, science, and engineering classes as part of a National Science Foundation sponsored Math Science Partnership project entitled, Project Pathways. The workshop was conducted with an active learning approach that included frequent breaks for reflection, discussion and recording of facts, ideas, experiences, strategies and possible actions. The results showed that all teachers were aware that gender-equity issues existed in K-12 science and math classrooms. However, they were less frequently aware of underlying causes or of possible approaches to address the causes. The teachers were aware of some of the types of findings in the research literature such as gender and minority stereotypes, the "chilly climate" in some math and science classrooms, and the lack of female and minority role models. However, many were unaware of other types of findings in the literature which were composed of more subtle forms of bias, such as lack of activities to develop tinkering selfefficacy and more frequent control of classroom labs and projects by more aggressive males than less aggressive females. Based on the their own experience and their informed knowledge of research-based gender and equity issues, the teachers proposed strategies to address the issues. The most frequently cited strategy for addressing the STEM gender barrier was improving tinkering self-efficacy. Suggestions included participation in hands-on activities at home, parental involvement, starting early in elementary school, and structuring laboratories and projects for equal female and male participation. Specific responses and analysis, as well as other less frequently cited issues and strategies, are presented in more detail in body of the paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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