Women’s interest development and motivations to persist as college students in STEM: a mixed methods analysis of views and voices from a Hispanic-Serving Institution

Abstract

Background: The constructs of interest and motivation are often identified as factors that contribute to the persistence of undergraduate college women in physics, mathematics, engineering, engineering technology, and computer science. A review of the literature regarding interest development and motivation as related to women as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learners in diverse communities is presented. The goal of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences women credited for influencing the development of their career interest goals and the sources of motivation they attribute to success in their academic course outcomes in their fields of study.

Results: A mixed methods research approach was used to collect student perceptions related to interest and motivation by collecting data through the use of questionnaires and conducting focus groups. Results indicated that students identify early participation in STEM activities and family socializing behavior as ones that contributed the most towards influencing their interest in STEM and motivated them to persist in their studies and pathways as future STEM professionals.

Conclusions: This study is unique in that the participant groups included a substantial representation of Latina and African American women’s voices as relayed through the collected quantitative data as well as through the use of focus groups that encouraged women to freely identify experiences they felt contributed to their persistence success. These women identify interest development at various points in their lives as affected by family and school experiences, and family support was identified as having greater importance in their decision to persist.

Description

Keywords

women in STEM, STEM fields of study, interest, motivation, undergraduate persistence, Latina, Hispanic, African American, college students

Citation

Talley, K. G., & Martinez Ortiz, A. (2017). Women’s interest development and motivations to persist as college students in STEM: a mixed methods analysis of views and voices from a Hispanic-Serving Institution. International Journal of STEM Education, 4(1). doi:10.1186/s40594-017-0059-2

Department

Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering
Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching
Engineering Education