What a Scientist Looks Like: How Community Colleges Can Utilize and Enhance Science Identity Development as a Means to Improve Success for Women of Color

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2016-12-02
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Rodriguez-Jones, Sarah
Cunningham, Kelly
Jordan, Alec
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Rodriguez, Sarah
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School of Education

The School of Education seeks to prepare students as educators to lead classrooms, schools, colleges, and professional development.

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The School of Education was formed in 2012 from the merger of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.

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2012-present

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  • College of Human Sciences (parent college)
  • Department of Curriculum and Instruction (predecessor)
  • Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (predecessor)

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This article explores the application of science identity development theory for women of color interested in the science disciplines; and it advocates for taking an intersectional approach to understanding how women of color form science identities. The article also challenges community college administrators and scholars to focus on redefining science identity development theory within the community college setting as a means to enhance success for women of color pursuing academic work in scientific disciplines.

Women of color are severely underrepresented in science and engineering occupations; they make up approximately 5% of employed scientists and engineers (2% Black, 2% Hispanic, 1% American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Other Pacific Islander, and multiple race; National Science Foundation, 2015). Often facing challenges related to sexism and racism within the sciences, many women of color find it difficult to conceptualize themselves as scientists and fail to develop a strong science identity (Carlone & Johnson, 2007Carlone, H. B., & Johnson, A. (2007). Understanding the science experiences of successful women of color: Science identity as an analytic lens. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(8), 1187–1218. doi:10.1002/(ISSN)1098-2736[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). This is particularly troublesome as science identity development has been shown to influence science undergraduate major persistence and interest, especially for women of color (Brickhouse, Lowery, & Schultz, 2000Brickhouse, N. W., Lowery, P., & Schultz, K. (2000). What kind of a girl does science? The construction of school science identities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(5), 441–458. doi:10.1002/(ISSN)1098-2736[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]; Carlone & Johnson, 2007Carlone, H. B., & Johnson, A. (2007). Understanding the science experiences of successful women of color: Science identity as an analytic lens. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(8), 1187–1218. doi:10.1002/(ISSN)1098-2736[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]).

Because community colleges continue to serve as important entry points for women of color into the sciences (Reyes, 2011Reyes, M. (2011). Unique challenges for women of color in STEM transferring from community colleges to universities. Harvard Educational Review, 81(2), 241–263. doi:10.17763/haer.81.2.324m5t1535026g76[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]; St. Rose & Hill, 2013St. Rose, A., & Hill, C. (2013). Women in community colleges: Access to success (Report). Washington, DC: American Association of University Women. [Google Scholar]; Tsapogas, 2004Tsapogas, J. (2004). The role of community colleges in the education of recent science and engineering graduates (Info Brief). Washington, DC: National Science Foundation. [Google Scholar]), these institutions are uniquely positioned to enhance the science identity development of these women. Knowledge and experience alone are insufficient for sustaining interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields (Carlone, 2003Carlone, H. B. (2003). (Re)producing good science students: Girls’ participation in high school physics. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 9(1), 17–34. doi:10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.v9.i1[Crossref], [Google Scholar]); and promotion of a narrow range of science identities could alienate students who reject such identities (Brickhouse & Potter, 2001Brickhouse, N. W., & Potter, J. T. (2001). Young women’s scientific identity formation in an urban context. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(8), 965–980. doi:10.1002/(ISSN)1098-2736[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]; Carlone, 2003Carlone, H. B. (2003). (Re)producing good science students: Girls’ participation in high school physics. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 9(1), 17–34. doi:10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.v9.i1[Crossref], [Google Scholar], 2004Carlone, H. B. (2004). The cultural production of science in reform-based physics: Girls’ access participation, and resistance. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(4), 392–414. doi:10.1002/(ISSN)1098-2736[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]; Eisenhart & Finkel, 1998Eisenhart, M. A., & Finkel, E. (1998). Women’s science: Learning and succeeding from the margins. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. [Google Scholar]). Thus, community colleges have the potential to lead the way in shaping structures and practices to enable women of color to succeed in the sciences. The purpose of this article is to explore the potential of using Science Identity Development Theory, demonstrate the importance of an intersectional approach to science identity, and suggest implications for community college practice, policy, research, and evaluation.

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The accepted manuscript is from an article published as Rodriguez , S. L., Cunningham, K., Jordan, A. (2016). What a Scientist Looks Like: How Community Colleges Can Utilize and Enhance Science Identity Development as a Means to Improve Success for Women of Color. Community College Journal of Research and Practice,41(4-5), 1-7. DOI: 10.1080/10668926.2016.1251354. Posted with permission.

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Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2016
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