Date of Award

Fall 2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educ Foundations & Leadership

Committee Director

Dana Burnett

Committee Member

Melva Grant

Committee Member

Ellen Neufeldt

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the significant factors influencing STEM major selection by African American females. A quantitative research design with a qualitative component was employed. Ex post facto survey research was conducted utilizing an online questionnaire to collect data from participants. African American undergraduate females that had declared a major in STEM comprised the target population for the study. As a basis for comparison, a second data collection ensued. All non-African American undergraduate females majoring in STEM also received the survey instrument to determine if there was a significant difference between factors that influence STEM major selection between the two groups.

The Social Cognitive Career Choice Model comprised the conceptual framework for this study. Frequencies and percentages illustrated the demographic characteristics of the sample, as well as the average influence levels of each of the items without regard for level of significance. The researcher conducted an independent samples t-test to compare the mean scores for undergraduate African American females majoring in STEM and non-African American females majoring in STEM on each influential factor on the survey instrument. The researcher coded responses to open-ended questions to generate themes and descriptions.

The data showed that African American female respondents were very influenced by the following items: specific interest in the subject, type of work, availability of career opportunities after graduation, parent/guardian, precollege coursework in science, and introductory college courses. In addition, the majority of respondents were very influenced by each of the confidence factors. African American females were overwhelmingly not influenced by aptitude tests. African American females were more influenced than their non-African American female counterparts for the following factors: reputation of the university, college or department, high level of compensation in fields, religious leaders, precollege coursework in mathematics, confidence in mathematics ability, confidence in ability to be successful in mathematics in college, confidence in science ability, and confidence in ability to be successful in science in college. Non-African American females were more influenced than African American females by the precollege coursework in technology and the precollege STEM experience factors. Four themes emerged regarding the items that most influenced success in STEM for African American females: high level of compensation in the field, parents/legal guardians and family members, specific interest in the subject, and confidence in science and math ability. One theme emerged regarding the items that least influenced success in STEM majors for African American females: personal interactions with individuals excluding family members.

ISBN

9781369522730

ORCID

0000-0003-4672-199X

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