Date of Award

Spring 2014

Type

Dissertation

Major

Doctor of Education

Department

Counseling, Foundations & Leadership

Abstract

This dissertation examines the experiences of males and females in science and mathematics undergraduate programs. It emphasizes particularly the undergraduates’ experiences within the STEM fields related to gender and how they negotiate gender by using a phenomenological approach. Ten STEM undergraduates (five males and five females) participated in semi-structured interviews to also examine why they chose to major in a STEM field, understand gender as it impacts their experiences, and identify obstacles that impact their persistence in the completion of their degree. There are more women than men attending colleges and earning degrees. However, men still outnumber women who major and complete degrees in the STEM fields. By understanding the experiences of both male and female students and how they navigate through STEM coursework, educators may use this acumen to modify instructional practices.

Results from the participants’ interviews yielded that both males and females believe that choosing a STEM major and successfully pursuing it is based on their individual interests and experiences rather than on their gender. Participants also divulged about the obstacles they encounter such as, difficult coursework and societal pressures. Pressure to be the breadwinner, empowerment to overcome the odds, forming bonds with fellow STEM majors, and encouragement from teachers were found to be the reasons STEM undergraduates continued to pursue their degree.

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