Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An Exploration of Stem, Entrepreneurship, and Impact on Girls in an Independent Day School
by Kelly, Ryan P., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2017, 168; 10277920
Abstract (Summary)

The 21st century has seen a pervasive theme in STEM continue from the 20th century: women do not pursue and persist in STEM careers at anywhere near the rate of men. Furthermore, STEM education has fallen short in preparing its students to enter the workforce as entrepreneurial knowledge workers prepared to innovate. As STEM and entrepreneurship receive unprecedented attention in scholarly circles, the first purpose of this mixed methods study at an independent day school was to examine the impact of a predominately female STEEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship and mathematics) teaching staff on girls’ perceptions of STEEM. The second purpose of this study was to examine the impact of adding entrepreneurship to a STEM curriculum. The ultimate goals of this study were to inform local policy and practice.

Through teacher interviews, student focus groups, and a student survey, this study investigated the impact of female teachers and a recently established entrepreneurship-infused curriculum. The theory of action guiding this school is that female STEEM teachers and the inclusion of entrepreneurship skills and projects can improve girls’ perceptions of the STEM classroom, helping them to view STEM as less gender-oriented (i.e., male-oriented), and thereby make these classes feel more welcoming to girls. This is aimed at increasing their adoption of STEM majors in college and STEM careers after they graduate.

This study has four major findings. First, the predominantly female STEEM faculty appeared to build girls’ confidence in their STEEM classes. Second, the STEEM teachers use active learning and critical thinking to engage the girls in their classes. Third, the introduction of entrepreneurship appears to have helped increase girls’ interest in STEM. Last, even while discussing their efforts to increase girls’ engagement with STEM, many teachers celebrate gender blindness.

These findings raised a number issues that should be important educators and (especially) school leaders. These include the importance of high standards for girls in STEEM classes, the value of including real world experiences in STEEM lessons, the success of expanding STEM with a less traditionally academic area and the challenges that gender blindness can perpetuate for educators and their students.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Yoon, Susan
Commitee: Hoffman, Mark, Remillard, Janine
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Educational and Organizational Leadership
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 78/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mathematics education, Educational leadership, Womens studies, Education, Science education
Keywords: Entrepreneurship, Girls, STEM
Publication Number: 10277920
ISBN: 978-1-369-83026-2
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