Theses Doctoral

Girls' Experiences with Gender-Inclusive Curriculum: Effects on Perception, Confidence, and Belief in Ability to Do Science

Robinson, Rashida

This study explores how an afterschool science program for girls that uses a curriculum written by female scientists/science educators and highlights the contributions of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields affects girls’ perception of scientists, confidence in their science skills, belief in their ability to do science, and helps them construct a positive science identity. Using self-efficacy, identity, feminist, gender, and learning theories as theoretical frameworks, this study investigates how strengthening girls’ belief in their ability to do science and confidence in their science skills and content knowledge can increase girls’ curiosity and generate a sustained interest in science that may eventually lead to STEM degrees and careers later in life.

By providing girls with hands-on science experiences that emphasize leadership, cooperative learning, critical thinking, and creativity, as well as female role models and stories of successful women in STEM fields, the study provides evidence of a successful intervention format that leads to a sustained interest in science both in and outside of school. Data were collected in this qualitative case study via a survey (with Likert scale and open-ended questions), an interview, and artifacts (student work), and analyzed using open and axial coding to look for themes in the data around participants’ changing perceptions of science and scientists, increasing confidence in their science skills and content knowledge, enhanced belief in their ability to do science, and positive identity construction.

The results of this study provide information about how to format a successful after-school program with a curriculum and methodology that nurtures learning, and by proxy, generates greater achievement and participation in STEM among girls that could extend through secondary school and possibly into post-secondary education and career choices. HYPOTHESISters was an afterschool STEAM program for upper elementary-aged girls (4th and 5th grades) based in West Harlem. The program was conducted on twelve consecutive Saturdays, for two hours per session, in the fall of 2019 (September 21st through December 7th) at The Forum at Columbia University. The curriculum, developed by the primary researcher in conjunction with another educator, consisted of one 12-lesson outer space-themed unit. The program participants consisted of twenty girls - ten 4th grade girls and ten 5th grade girls, between the ages of eight and ten. Most of the participants reside in West Harlem or the surrounding area. Except for four girls who identify as Caucasian, most identify themselves as members of communities of color, with seven participants being Latina, eight being Black or African American, and one being Asian (from India).


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Emdin, Christopher
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 3, 2021