Teaching strategies designed to change the undergraduate experience for college women learning chemistry

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Abstract

A college for women has been cited as one of the most productive origins of female physical science doctorates in the United States. A case study was conducted to investigate teaching strategies that support the retention of women in the physical sciences, based on evidence from one of the college's most notable instructors and her teaching strategies. The strategies this teacher used included a personal “contract”, confidence building techniques, and science internships. Data were collected from classroom documents, classroom observations, teacher interviews, student focus groups, student feedback sheets, Likert-response student surveys, and student final exams. Evidence from the Likert-response survey and focus groups suggested that the contract increased students' likelihood of success in the course and that confidence-building strategies improved students' confidence in their ability to succeed in science. An analysis of students' final exam scores indicated that student marks improved after the introduction of the aforementioned teaching innovations: 4% of students taking the same science course with the same teacher earned less than a C-, compared to a previous three-year average of 18% of students with below C- grades. In addition, notably fewer minority women dropped the course than they had in the past. The findings of this study suggest that this teacher's strategies may have played a part in retaining these women in the physical sciences. Based on the data, a theoretical model is proposed that suggests how switching or “fading” out of the course may have been addressed and how multiple teaching strategies can work in concert with each other to contribute to women's positive experiences in the physical sciences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-388
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
Volume11
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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