Brief Interventions From a Woman Role Model Can Improve Retention of Women in STEM Fields

herrmannResearch by Sarah Herrmann, a graduate student in psychology at Arizona State University, has shown that for women who are struggling in STEM disciplines in college, a brief intervention by a woman role model significantly improved the women’s chance to remain in the STEM field and improved these women’s grade point averages in STEM courses.

Herrmann’s research involved women students in introductory chemistry and psychology courses. After they received the results of their first examination, students were asked to participate in a five-minute study for extra credit. Half of the students were asked to fill out a demographic questionnaire. The other half were given an intervention letter written by Herrmann that encouraged the students – regardless of what grade they received on the exam – to stay in the course.

The results showed that students who received the intervention in the chemistry course were 77 percent less likely to receive s grade of D on future tests and were less likely to withdraw from the course than students who did not receive the encouragement intervention. In the psychology class, students who received the intervention were 62 percent less likely to receive a low grade and withdraw from the courses. The results also showed that students who received the intervention had higher grades at the end of the semester than those who did not.

“We’ve known about this problem for a while, and it persists,” Herrmann said of female dropout rates in STEM. “What we hope to elucidate are some ways to help.”

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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