African American Female Engineering Students' Persistence in Stereotype-threatening Environments: A Critical Race Theory Perspective

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Gregory, Stacie LeSure (2015)
  • Publisher: DigitalCommons@USU
  • Subject: African | American | Female | Engineering | Students | Persistence | stereotype | threatening | environments | critical | race | theory | perspective | Engineering Education

Due to the social context of engineering classrooms, stereotype threat (STT) may play an essential role in the dearth of African American females in engineering. Empirical studies have confirmed the deleterious effects STT has on students' performance. However, acceptance of STT as more than a laboratory phenomenon necessitates an in-depth understanding of how stigmatized groups experience being socially devalued and negatively stereotyped. In this qualitative investigation, Intersectionality and the Critical Race Theory tenet of counter-storytelling were applied to capture the voices of 10 African American women to comprehend how they resisted or overcame STT and persisted in engineering degree programs. Data were triangulated from two different semi-structured interviews and reading reactions submitted by each participant. Findings reveal four characteristic themes shared by the participants: (a)Proof Stereotype Threat Exists; (b) Primary Contributors of Stereotype Threat; (c) Secondary Factors; and (d) Tools for Persisting. Based on participants’ narratives, 6 recommendations are offered to assist African American female students combat STT and persist in engineering.
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