Nevertheless, she persisted (in science research): Enhancing women students’ science research motivation and belonging through communal goals
There is no doubt that connections with other people motivate behavior; yet science is stereotyped as being lonely work devoid of communal connections. Drawing from self-regulation of motivation and goal congruity theories, we ask, does relationship-building in science foster communal perceptions that then increase women’s persistence in and motivation for science research? In a scientific context designed to simulate a “typical” setting that emphasized gender and the male-dominated nature of STEM, women and men students interacted with a male confederate [Study 1 (N = 245)] or women students interacted with a female confederate [Study 2 (N = 152)]. In both cases, the student-confederate pair completed a series of getting-to-know-you questions to foster a relationship, engaged in a boring “data transcription” task together, and completed measures of communal goal perceptions, science research motivation, and belonging. We also assessed actual persistence on and future motivation for the science task. Across both studies, women’s communal perceptions significantly predicted belonging and science research motivation. In turn, science research motivation led to significantly greater persistence and future motivation and significantly mediated the link between communal perceptions and science persistence (Study 1). Results for belonging were mixed. Study 2 results provided a conceptual replication, extending the model to same-gender peer interactions. Overall results suggest peer relationship-building exercises are one pathway to help women feel a sense of community in science education. Focusing on creative strategies to retain women students in science will enhance science innovation and contribute to a more inclusive teaching and learning environment.
Social Psychology of Education
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Allen, J., Brown, E.R., Ginther, A. et al. Nevertheless, she persisted (in science research): Enhancing women students’ science research motivation and belonging through communal goals. Soc Psychol Educ 24, 939–964 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-021-09639-6