Paper No. 230-6
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM
DEMYSTIFYING THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS FOR A STUDY OF PERSISTENCE IN STEM
A Midwestern state university was recently awarded an NSF grant to support scholarships for academically gifted, low-income undergraduates enrolled in STEM majors. Educational research will be conducted as a component of this project in the fall of 2019, with an overarching goal of understanding and promoting persistence in STEM. One specific aspect of this work is a qualitative study to describe student experiences in a near-peer mentored group led by a graduate student researcher. The goal of this group is to provide social support for the scholars as they work through their programs, opening a space for students to connect and relate to one another. Such support is commonly lacking in STEM programs, yet is shown to significantly enhance student experience and promote persistence. Given the general ambiguity of identity and development into adulthood during college years, this group also serves to provide context for students to explore their social and emotional needs during these uncertain and dynamic times. In developing the methodology for data collection as well as for the support group itself, we examined and connected a number of theoretical frameworks that will guide this work. Joining themes of self-efficacy, sense of belonging, identity, and adulthood, we call on numerous theories including Baxter Magolda’s Theory of Self-Authorship (2004), Arnett’s Theory of Emerging Adulthood (2004), Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory (1986), and Tinto’s Model of Student Retention (1975). During the proposed talk, strategies will be discussed for narrowing down sub-components of the project’s framework. Additionally, case study method development will be presented as it relates to connecting methods to theory and project goals. The study will follow an instrumental case study design, a type of ethnographic research that serves the need for general understanding of a phenomenon by examining a particular case. In this study, the case is the initial cohort of scholars in the support group. Multiple data sources will be collected to triangulate findings about the experiences of the group, including interviews, focus groups, and researcher journals. Together, these data will offer a rich understanding of the impacts and inner workings of the support group. In this setting, we aim to facilitate a unique and productive experience for students to connect in ways that otherwise might not arise in normal college life. Insights from our theory and method development process can be widely applied to geoscience education research in general.