Thursday, 18 December 2014
Eric M Riggs1, Julie M Sexton2, Kevin Pugh3, Cassendra Bergstrom2, Rhonda Parmley4 and Michael Phillips3, (1)Texas A&M University, College of Geosciences, College Station, TX, United States, (2)University of Northern Colorado, Mathematics and Science Teaching Institute, Greeley, CO, United States, (3)University of Northern Colorado, School of Psychological Sciences, Greeley, CO, United States, (4)Quaternia Services, Fort Collins, CO, United States
The proportion of women earning undergraduate geoscience degrees has remained about 40% for over a decade. Little research has investigated why women select and persist in a geoscience major. This study addresses why students major in the geosciences and why some programs are more successful at recruiting and retaining female students. We collected interview and survey data from faculty and students at six public US universities. Four sites had a low proportion of female degree recipients (< 38%) and two sites had a high proportion of female degree recipients (> 48%). 408 students (64% female) completed surveys. Interviews were conducted with 49 faculty members and 151 students. Survey data analysis showed that interest/identity and transformative experiences were significant predictors of students' decision to major in geoscience. Institutional barriers and supports were significant predictors of confidence in the major while connection to instructor predicted students' intent to major. Analysis of pre- and post-course surveys show that students with a greater connection to instructors and students whose instructors expressed more passion for the content also reported higher levels of transformative experiences. This effect was especially pronounced for women and was a significant predictor of persistence in the major. Qualitative data show differences in departmental practices and climate between low and high female graduation sites. High sites used many student-centered approaches to teaching, had extensive opportunities for and a high number of undergraduate students involved in research, and had many opportunities for faculty-student interaction outside of class. Low sites had few of these practices. Qualitative data also showed differences in the gendered equity climate between high and low sites. High sites had more positive gender equity climates and low sites had more negative gender equity climates. At this time, we do not fully understand the causal relationships among all of these findings and higher female graduation rates, but this research is ongoing and these relationships are a focus of our final year of this research project.