THE INFLUENCE OF GENDER STEREOTYPES ON ROLE ADOPTION IN STUDENT TEAMS



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THE INFLUENCE OF GENDER STEREOTYPES ON ROLE ADOPTION IN STUDENT TEAMS



Educational research provides ample evidence of the benefits of effective group work for engineering students including improved material retention, development of higher-order cognitive skills, and higher performance. This work also describes best practices in the creation of effective student teams including suggestions for team size, the placement of students in teams, and student diversity. While diversity in this context includes a broad range of considerations spanning abilities and perspectives, Tonso suggests that teams should include racial and ethnic diversity specifically, whenever possible. However, research has shown that despite best practices, women or minorities on teams can experience negative outcomes. Their perspectives are not always considered valid by majority teammates, and they are often assigned unimportant tasks , reflecting a societal stereotype of majority men as engineering “experts.” Moreover, under-representation of one’s social group (e.g., gender or race) in the academic environment can lead to reduced performance as a result of stereotype threat, i.e. the concern that poor performance may appear stereotype-confirming to others 6, . The isolation that these students feel on their teams may lead to diminished feelings of belonging in their field and lower retention among these individuals. Despite the employment of best practices, our earlier analysis of approximately 600 undergraduates involved in group oral presentations reveals that women on first-year engineering project teams exhibit less active participation than men, and that this happens regardless of the representation of women on the team. Men are disproportionately more likely to present the technical content in oral presentations than women, to speak longer than expected and longer than women, and to field more audience questions than women . In addition, students’ selfreported learning from the project is positively correlated with taking on active presentation roles, roles primarily adopted by men. This paper provides a summary of the statistical findings of adding an additional 500 first year student participants to the prior work, lending further validity to our initial findings. To complement these quantitative results, we also describe the results of a focus group study, involving students who were enrolled in the targeted engineering course in a prior term. Themes emerging from the focus groups highlight the presence of gender stereotypic role adoption. Although students in general felt that teams strive for fairness in determining roles, those roles were recognizably aligned along stereotypical lines. Despite this recognition students thought this phenomenon was mostly self-determined, and that they were not pressured into it. Stereotyping was evidenced in reports of women most often taking on organizational roles, taking notes, scheduling meetings, and distributing agendas. Of interest, women saw these nontechnical roles as less desirable because these are seen by others as insubstantial, but these were the very roles that women were most often taking on. Thus, we were able to document that gender stereotypes influenced the roles adopted by men and women in their group project presentations and that students, while recognizing the stereotypical patterns of behavior, do not recognize the influence that conforming to these patterns has on their educational outcomes. P ge 23217.2 Introduction and Background Research from engineering education and social science provides a synergistic foundation for predictions about the effect of gender stereotypes on the participation of male and female students in engineering project groups. Recent trends in engineering enrollment and persistence. Enrollment trends in engineering schools in the US show increased numbers of students entering the engineering field over the past decade. Enrollment of female students has been rising, reaching 18.6 percent in 2010; however, women remain greatly under-represented in the field. Likewise, enrollments of some groups of minority students remain very low. African American enrollment has declined to only 5.9 percent of undergraduate engineering enrollment. Hispanic student enrollments, although increasing, remain low at approximately 9.1 percent. At the University of Michigan College of Engineering, enrollment of female students has been relatively high, reaching its peak at just over 30 percent in 2002, but has recently declined despite increasing national trends, settling at about 25 percent. Under-represented minority (URM) student enrollment in engineering at Michigan has also declined since reaching a high in 2001 of approximately 15 percent. While enrollment in engineering is increasing, the field is faced with high attrition rates. Since 1975, nationwide engineering student attrition has increased, doubling from about 12 percent to 24 percent in 1990, and reaching as high as 40 to 60 percent in the last decade. This trend exacts a significant cost on the institution and the individual. Research across gender and race cohorts shows that each group reports different reasons for leaving engineering. Students who leave often exhibit a lack of motivation and self-efficacy . Women may lack in the development of professional role confidence, and URM students sometimes report additional complex and unique situations, including financial challenges and specific experiences in the instructional settings with other students and faculty that lead to attrition from the field. Overall, enrollment trends in engineering indicate that women and minority students continue to be highly under-represented in the field, with higher attrition when they do enroll, for reasons that are associated with their experiences on campus. With the growing importance of group work in the engineering educational setting, and the persistent stereotyping of the field as a majority male domain, negative intergroup experiences in this setting may contribute significantly to the perceptions and intentions of under-represented students. The group work environment in engineering education. Educational research provides ample evidence of the benefits of effective group work to students including improved material retention, development of higher-order cognitive skills, and higher performance. This work also describes strong frameworks and best practices in the creation of effective student teams including team size, student diversity and the determination of team membership. For example, teams consisting of three to five individuals facilitate individual accountability, allow for less complex out-of-class meeting time management and provide a sufficiently broad set of perspectives and resources . Best practices also suggest not isolating under-represented students on teams, especially in fields such as engineering where there are fewer underrepresented students and where academic networks are not sufficiently robust to support the needs of these students. To create heterogeneous teams and control resource distribution among P ge 23217.3 teams, it is necessary for instructors to actively assign team membership, seeking balance in terms of race, gender and ability. Although heterogeneous teams can encounter more challenges as diverse participants learn to work together, such teams allow students to share diverse perspectives and skills and typically result in more effective performance than homogeneous teams . While diversity in this context includes a broad range of considerations spanning abilities and perspectives ,23, 24, 25, , Tonso suggests that teams should include racial and ethnic diversity specifically, whenever possible. However, research has shown that isolating women or minorities on teams can negatively impact their participation in significant ways. Their perspectives are not always considered valid by majority teammates, and they are often assigned unimportant tasks . Also, under-representation of one’s social group (e.g., gender or race) in the academic environment can raise concerns among women and minorities that poor performance may appear stereotypeconfirming to others 6, . The isolation that these students feel on their teams may lead to a lower feeling of belonging in their field and lower retention among these individuals. These processes have been examined in social science research in the areas of stereotype threat, gender differences in small group dynamics, and active learning. Stereotype Threat. A large body of social science research has demonstrated that gender stereotypes exist purporting than men have more ability than women in math and science fields, including engineering. Laboratory studies on the topic of stereotype threat have demonstrated the significant detrimental effect of these stereotypes on women’s performance in math and science fields, and on their intention and motivation to pursue math and science-related education and careers. For example, in lab studies women score lower than men on a math test when cues in the setting raise awareness of the gender stereotype . This phenomenon was also observed for performance on an engineering exam. This low performance of women is said to occur because awareness of the stereotype leads women to worry that a poor performance would appear stereotype-confirming to others, and the threat of appearing stereotypic raises stress and distracts them from concentrating fully on the test. Of importance, such studies also show that women’s math and engineering performance outcomes can match that of men’s when instructions are given that minimize the relevance of gender stereotypes in the testing situation, e.g., by describing the test items as non-diagnostic of inherent ability. This indicates that women have aptitude similar to men, but that expression of this aptitude is impeded by the stereotype.

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All Project Materials Inc. (2020). THE INFLUENCE OF GENDER STEREOTYPES ON ROLE ADOPTION IN STUDENT TEAMS. Available at: https://allprojectmaterials.com/department/paper-8731.html. [Accessed: ].

THE INFLUENCE OF GENDER STEREOTYPES ON ROLE ADOPTION IN STUDENT TEAMS


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