Date of Graduation

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

College/School

School of Education

Department

Leadership Studies

Program

Organization & Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Christopher N. Thomas

Second Advisor

Patricia A. Mitchell

Third Advisor

Xornom Apedoe

Abstract

Over the past decade, there has been a considerable push in emphasizing STEM—an acronym standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—as an integral aspect of educational curriculums. Even though research suggests that females tend to outperform males in standardized testing in STEM areas, they remain underrepresented in STEM careers and in the achievement of STEM degrees. In preparing this dissertation, therefore, the researcher investigated this issue by looking specifically at 4th- through 8th-grade girls in Catholic schools in the Diocese of San Jose, CA, which covers the Greater Silicon Valley region, one of the world's epicenters for technological innovations. In particular, this researcher examined girls’ attitudes and confidence in STEM areas, while looking at strategies that encourage their long-term interest in these areas, especially in the unique context of Catholic schools.

By using a mixed methods approach, the researcher surveyed hundreds of female students within the Diocese of San Jose, while conducting interviews with each of the girls' science teachers. Among other findings, the main discovery of this research is that a direct connection exists between the teacher’s own interests and excitement that makes STEM curriculum more meaningful for girls. The culture of the Catholic school environment supports achievement and helps the girls feel more involved within the school environment, especially in the formation of 21st century learning skills. The girls rated themselves high in areas of collaboration and leadership, which corresponded with the teachers’ view that the girls were highly effective in the STEM areas. This direct influence is related to the theoretical framework of this study, Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model. In conclusion, then, girls are influenced most directly by STEM teachers, their families, and the Catholic school environment.

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