Reframing STEM Learning Contexts

Underrepresented students (e.g, students of color, women) leave Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields at higher rates than their White and male counterparts. One possible explanation for this “leaky pipeline” is negative experiences in gateway courses–challenging courses designed to “weed out” students early in their academic careers.

In this line of work, we seek to explore how problematic messaging in gateway courses, such as mismatches in cultural values or fixed ideas about ability and intelligence, may contribute to the “leaky pipeline” in STEM. Specifically, we are interested in developing culturally-relevant, growth interventions within STEM to better serve students from diverse backgrounds.

One way we have sought to address this is to test different message framings of peer-led tutoring groups on students’ help-seeking behavior and performance in an introductory gateway STEM course. We also further unpack elements of peer-learning environments and the culture of STEM courses (e.g., competitiveness, peer interactions, beliefs about intelligence, etc.) that impact student performance and, ultimately, student retention at UCSC.