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Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/

0000-0001-6206-2571

Abstract

The marginalization of women in engineering is a persistent problem. The overall goal of our collaborative project was to promote interest and participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), particularly for high school girls. We took an action research approach with a local high school science teacher to develop, implement, and research the impact of a classroom-based intervention designed to encourage growth mindset and STEM self-efficacy beliefs using mixed methods. We analyzed pre- and postsurvey data collected using a control-treatment design to determine the impact of the intervention on high school boys’ and girls’ self-efficacy and mindset beliefs. We also conducted semi-structured, one-on-one interviews with purposefully selected participants from the treatment group to further explore students’ mindset and STEM self-efficacy beliefs qualitatively. We found that the intervention did result in a statistically significant change towards more growth-oriented beliefs for the high school girls who received the intervention as compared to the control group. We found that the intervention did not result in any statistically significant change in the girls’ self-efficacy beliefs, the boys’ mindset beliefs, or the boys’ self-efficacy beliefs. The qualitative analysis revealed that after receiving the intervention, students held contradictory beliefs about the role of effort and the role of innate ability in STEM achievement. Further, we found that context and gender mattered in how students justified their self-efficacy: boys and girls both expressed the belief that effort would lead to their ability to succeed in science classes, but the girls were less likely than the boys to express the belief that effort would lead to their ability to succeed in the context of a science career. By connecting our findings to broader cultural narratives, we suggest that for the continued success of intervention efforts aimed at promoting a growth mindset and STEM self-efficacy, particularly for girls, such efforts should include opportunities for students to reflect upon and unpack the broader cultural narratives about effort, innate ability, and the gendered stereotypes about STEM ability that inform their beliefs. Finally, from the perspective of a high school science teacher, we also advocate for more representation of women among science teachers and classroom speakers and the importance of explicitly connecting class content and success in classrooms to real-world contexts.

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