Project Details


Inadequate preparation of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is a significant problem in the United States. In addition, historically marginalized groups, including women, African Americans, and Hispanics, are vastly underrepresented in the STEM workforce. Research indicates that the reasons why women and historically marginalized students of color are unable or unwilling to pursue STEM majors are complex and multifaceted. One common factor often cited in the literature is the nature and quality of college mathematics instruction. Additionally, some researchers have suggested that the culture surrounding mathematics institutions, such as messages about mathematical ability being innate and the focus on individual competition, deters women and students of color. This suggests critical questions: What specific patterns of peer and instructor interactions contribute to or reinforce this mathematics learning culture? Why does this quality of instruction have a larger negative impact on women and students of color? What, specifically, makes this instruction inadequate in meeting the academic and social needs of underrepresented groups in mathematics? Do instructors recognize these actions as contributing to this underrepresentation in mathematics? Knowing the answers to these questions will contribute to creating more equitable mathematics learning environments at the undergraduate level and increasing the number of STEM majors to meet the demands of the national workforce. This Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) Engaged Student Learning project, Challenging, Operationalizing and Understanding Racialized and Gendered Experiences (COURAGE) in Undergraduate Mathematics is designed to begin the process of finding these answers.There is little research on the relationship between undergraduate mathematics instruction and the retention and achievement of groups that are historically underrepresented in mathematics; other scholars have noted that research in this area is sparse and urgently needed. In order to study this relationship, this research project uses a mixed-methods design. The intellectual merit of COURAGE is directly related to the opportunity to advance knowledge in this under-examined area of STEM education, the design of the research project itself and the qualifications of the personnel involved. In the first year, through observational study and stimulus-recall interviews, the investigators will identify specific events in pre-calculus and calculus classrooms that women and students of color find potentially marginalizing, and will investigate the perceptions of these events from the vantage points of undergraduate mathematics instructors as well as students who are adequately represented and underrepresented in the STEM disciplines. In the second year, quantitative studies using focus group interviews and surveys will be conducted to assess the generalizability of these findings. In particular, videotaped classroom events will be presented to a national sample of undergraduate students and mathematics course instructors, to see the extent to which they find these instructional events to be typical, desirable, or problematic. In the third year, professional development materials will be designed and then piloted with instructors that intend to create more equitable learning environments in undergraduate mathematics classrooms. A critical outcome of this work will be a collection of materials including a synthesis of typical events in undergraduate mathematics classrooms that marginalize students, various students' documented perceptions of classroom events, and recommended instructional practices for more equitably responding to their occurrences that can be shared widely to the benefit of the broader STEM education community.
Effective start/end date9/1/178/31/20


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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