Case study exploring science competence and science confidence of middle school girls from marginalized backgrounds
Jurin, Richard R. (Richard Robert), 1953-
Wacker, Robbyn R.
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
The inclusion of learners from underrepresented background in biology field research experiences has not been widely explored in the literature. Increased access and equity to experiences for groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has been identified as a priority for many, yet little is known about the components these experiences should have and what types of transformations participants undergo as a result of these experiences. This dissertation explored the systemic creation of an intervention purposely designed to serve middle school girls from underrepresented backgrounds, the implementation of such intervention, and effect on the girls' science competence and science confidence. El Espejo, Spanish for <&ldquo>The Mirror,<&rdquo> was an ongoing field ecology research program for middle schools girls founded in 2009 at a local interdisciplinary learning center. Girls from all walks of life had the opportunity to be apprentice researchers and to work with scientists and science educators from the local community. All activities were strategically designed to promote student-led inquiry, career awareness, cultural awareness, and opportunities for research and mentorship for girls from underrepresented backgrounds. An increased understanding of if, how, and why this experience was perceived by the girls to be life changing was of importance to add to the conversations that seek ways to inspire and prepare this generation of students to be the next generation of scientists. The study built on systems theory, and on theories that were embedded in the participants' system: critical race theory, identity theory, and experiential learning theory, grounded in the context of the lived experiences of girls from underrepresented backgrounds. The girls' experiences were captured through journals, observer participant notes, photo-documentation, artifacts (posters, videos) created by the girls, and by using science perception tools as well as ecological knowledge tools to gage change in perceptions before and after the program. Research questions centered on understanding what key components were necessary to inspire and motivate the girls to ask questions about the natural world, exploring ecological knowledge as a component of scientific literacy, and on understanding science identity formation as an integrated process. Analyses of qualitative and quantitative data occurred through a systems lens to explore the intersection of experience, identity, place, science knowledge, and science perceptions for the girls in this environment. The findings indicate that the program was successful in changing the perceptions of science the girls had at the beginning of the program compared to the end of the program. The experience was overall successful as evidenced by the experiences, stories, and insights from the eight case studies examined in depth. All case study participants indicated a continued interest in science or a newly discovered interest in science related topics that they had not considered before the program. The pre-post content test was not indicative of the concepts the girls learned through the process of scientific inquiry. These findings have implications for the design, implementation, and evaluation of current and future interventions that seek to provide opportunities for underrepresented populations, for the facilitators, classroom teachers, parents, community members, and policy makers vested in providing a space where creation, innovation, and transformation of experience can take place. This is a pivotal undertaking to inspire and prepare girls from underrepresented backgrounds to be leaders in STEM.
Dean's Citation for Excellence
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