A multiple case study of female students' academic self-efficacy while participating in a middle school robotics program
An instructional focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is a current popular educational due to the widespread need for skilled workers in these growing fields. Compounding this labor shortage is the fact that female students and workers are underrepresented in STEM subjects. The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences of female middle school students participating in school-based robotics programs to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between gender beliefs and academic self-efficacy related to STEM subjects. The results of this study were organized into the theme of experience, influence, coaching, impact, and student descriptors. Contributing factors in the decision to either remain in robotics or leave the program were noted in the category of influence. For the most part, coaching strategies aligned with the idea of the coach as facilitator and schools varied in how they attracted new students. Impact was divided into the coded impact areas of skills, long term, careers, and post-secondary impacts. The theme of student descriptors applied any time coaches and students described students or themselves in specific characteristics, traits, or behaviors. The majority of observations regarding specific gender-related behavior fell into this theme. The data gained in this study contributed information to the field of study in the areas of significance to the field of study, recommendations for schools, and suggestions for further research. The results indicated that individual gender schema is well-established by the middle school years, and it is a transformative moment in life when one must choose what to do with that knowledge. Based on the findings of this study, school districts should fully support robotics programs, focus on mentorship, and expand opportunity while eliminating obstacles for students. First, research should be conducted to determine where gender schema comes into play at the elementary level. Second, research should be conducted to determine what factors students use choosing between robotics and other activities in middle school. Third, schools that are experiencing great success at producing students who enter STEM careers should be studied.
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