The Colloquy included three breakout sessions with three or four discussion groups and rapporteurs responsible for summarizing and communicating the discussions in the plenary session. Each breakout group included senior researchers in the focal minority male population as topical resources. This report provides a summary of three breakout sessions that should give the reader a balanced picture of the conversations at the Colloquy.
The discussion groups in Breakout Session 1 considered the impacts of gender, ethnicity, and race in STEM education and research for minority populations. Breakout Session 2 focused on a discussion of theoretical frameworks. Participants in Breakout Session 3 considered the discussions of the previous sessions to identify research methodologies that could enhance understanding of minority male participation in STEM education and careers.
The groups in Breakout Session 1 were based on the racial and ethnic populations that were the primary focus of participants’ research (e.g., African Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics). The breakout groups then considered the impact of gender on their selected population and its relevance and intersection with the ethnicity and racial identity of boys and men within these populations and discussed the following questions:
- In what areas do gender differences exist? What significant gaps exist in the research base with respect to the discovery and description of gender-based differences and preferences in learning STEM subjects at K–16 and in the graduate/faculty levels in the racial and ethnic population selected?
- What is causing these gender differences? What significant gaps exist in the research base with respect to understanding factors that affect interest, performance, and choice of STEM academic programs and careers in those fields where significant differences in participation and performance by gender exist in the selected minority male population?
How are gender differences exacerbated by educational settings? What significant gaps exist in the research base with respect to discovering and understanding how experiences and interactions in informal and formal educational settings either inhibit or encourage interest and performance of learners based on gender within the selected minority male population?
In discussing these questions, most of the participants rejected deficit models1 and agreed that the challenge was not to “fix” minority males but rather to create environments more conducive to their participation and performance in STEM. They identified the following ways to improve research activities: (a) refine studies of identity formation and consider a developmental perspective on identity (which would include gender, race, masculinity, and class); (b) ensure that current research findings are used to inform current practices to engage minority males in STEM and that the resulting challenges or failures of these practices are considered in future research; and (c) differentiate research questions and approaches between minority groups.2
Breakout Group 1A: Researchers with a Focus on African American Males
Participants noted that the curricular and cocurricular experiences of African American males may encourage or discourage their interest in STEM careers, and therefore underscored the importance of holistic approaches3 for the recruitment, retention, and graduation of African American males in STEM fields at the undergraduate level.4 Some participants in this group observed that efforts to help undergraduate African American males persevere and graduate are more effective when coupled with a knowledge and understanding of the precollege experiences of these young men. Accordingly they argued that research on the participation of African American males at graduate and professional levels in STEM should similarly focus on the factors that motivate their choice and perseverance in these education and career pathways.
Discussions were aligned with the educational levels (K–8, high school, undergraduate, and graduate/professional) identified by the Colloquy organizers. A summary of points raised for each level follows.
- To be more effective, different—and more qualitative—approaches are necessary for research on younger boys of color. Scale-based or other quantitative research studies may not be as helpful as qualitative methods, which should also consider age-appropriate developmental perspectives of identity.
- Key research objectives include identification of the leverage points for effective intervention to enhance academic performance and STEM interest. For example, peer connections may particularly merit investigation as one such point of leverage.
1 According to the University of Kansas eLearning Design Lab, “The ‘deficit’ model focuses on the student as the major problem, neither looking within the environment nor the instructional practices in the classroom” (www.elearndesign.org).
2 The following summaries of the breakout group discussions and suggested research topics are based on the presentations by the rapporteur of each group and should not be construed as consensus recommendations of the individual breakout groups, the Colloquy participants as a whole, or the National Academy of Engineering.
3 According to Nandish Pantel in an article in the International Journal of Education Management 17 (6/7), “A holistic approach develops students to be critical, confident and independent. It aims to make learning a process of self-improvement that explicitly recognizes the self and the social context of learning and teaching, and recognizes the needs of the individual learner in the interaction.”
4 Undergraduate education in STEM discussed at the Colloquy includes both two- and four-year programs and the term “undergraduate” is used in this report to include both two-year and four-year schools.
- There is a need for more comparative and longitudinal studies on effective content and pedagogy, particularly those that promote earlier interest in STEM. Based on their current social prominence, two potential candidates for such studies include (a) STEM concepts present in communication technologies and social media (e.g., iPods, video games, and social media such as Facebook), and (b) the role and effectiveness of same-sex schools.
For high school:
- There are a number of questions that could focus potential research on this population, such as: What characterizes an educational culture of success? What pathways toward high school academic success are enabled or precluded by a child’s elementary and middle school experiences, behaviors, and assessments? What are empowering, culturally relevant pedagogies that foster future STEM achievement? In what learning spaces (in and out of school) are they practiced?
- There is a lack of understanding by researchers of the interactions of racial identity and social capital theories.5 Researchers must better understand how social and cultural capital develop and manifest in the academic and life trajectories of males of color and the multiple dimensions of identity among males of color at this level.
Undergraduate (two- and four-year) education:
- Research on students at this level is necessarily coupled with an understanding of precollege experiences that do or do not adequately prepare African American males for pursuing STEM study and careers. Such an understanding requires assessment of the nature and effectiveness of guidance in high school as well as the effectiveness of various school models (e.g., magnet schools, charter schools, and learning communities in conventional schools).
- There should be holistic approaches to understanding undergraduate recruitment, matriculation, retention, and graduation of African American males. In addition, there may need to be analysis of individual STEM disciplines in order to understand movement of African American males across these disciplines at the undergraduate level as well as their exit from STEM disciplines to non-STEM disciplines.
For graduate students/professionals in STEM:
- The future engagement of African American males in STEM fields is highly dependent on the presence of a racially diverse professoriate. Thus appropriate topics for research might include (a) the recruitment and retention of minority male faculty and (b) support structures to ease the transitions of African American males through these critical education and training milestones in STEM careers.
5 Social capital theory is broadly defined as encompassing the “norms and networks facilitating collective action for mutual benefit.” Source: Michael Woolcock, “Social Capital and Economic Development: Toward a Theoretical Synthesis and Policy Framework,” Theory and Society, Vol. 27, 151-208, 1998.
Breakout Group 1B: Researchers with a Focus on Hispanic American Males
The participation and performance of Hispanic American males in STEM education and careers are imperiled by inequities that begin in elementary education systems and are reinforced by the culture and climate of academic and professional organizations, according to some participants in this breakout group. For example, educational settings exacerbate differences in gender performance (among all races) through differential expectations of teachers and faculty in gateway and gatekeeper courses.6 In the Hispanic American community, these inequities are reinforced by differences in peer and parental influences (e.g., common cultural expectations that boys will leave educational pathways at the high school or baccalaureate level to assume gainful employment). During discussion, the group identified seven potential research strands to enhance understanding of these factors with respect to Hispanic American males:
- K–8 academic preparation: Hispanic American males enter the academic pipeline with high aspirations but too often leave with failure. Researchers need to understand why. Several factors may be at play: there appear to be challenges with the mathematics core (algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and precalculus); inadequate parental knowledge of academic requirements may be a contributory issue; and the language of instruction can be a challenge for second-language learners. Researchers also need to better understand the role of standardized testing and accelerated/advanced courses in systemic inequity and barriers to further STEM study by Hispanic males.
- Successful navigation of undergraduate pathways: Researchers should seek to better understand the messages students are getting in high school and as undergraduates about STEM study and careers. Studies should assess the impact of transfers from community colleges to four-year institutions, categorized by scientific field. And it would be useful to determine whether the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program7 serves Hispanic males as well as it serves the general population.
- Academic institutional policies and practices that (positively or negatively) affect Hispanic American males’ attainment of undergraduate degrees in STEM: It is important to identify models of institutions and programs that are effective at engaging Hispanic males at the undergraduate levels. How scalable are such programs? How might they be adapted, as appropriate, from ad hoc pilots to institutionalized programs? It is especially important to determine what policies and procedures encourage or inhibit faculty to support the recruitment and retention of graduate students of color, for example through mentoring and other supportive activities.
- Understanding resiliency: More information is needed about the characteristics of STEM achievers. What are their educational experiences? the characteristics of their home environments? Which ones build and nurture resiliency?
- Identity formation: There are numerous questions about identity formation among Hispanic American male students. How do they see themselves as scientists and engineers? Are such views congruent with their views of masculinity? What are the
6 Gateway courses provide foundational experiences that can lead students to pursue further studies in STEM fields. Gatekeeper courses are required for advancement in STEM and often have a low rate of students passing.
7 The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program is just one of many NSF-supported programs that are relevant to the discussions at the Colloquy. Another NSF program is the Alliances for Graduate Education (AGEP) Broadening Participation Research in STEM Education. Information is available at www.nsf.gov.
effects of interactions with teachers and/or coaches, and how are those interactions affected by the identity roles assumed by the students and their teachers and coaches? What is the influence of early immersion programs in mathematics or in science in the development of Hispanic males’ sense of a “science identity”8 and their success in STEM?
- Effective pedagogy and instruction: What are the components of models of success at the precollege and undergraduate levels? What is the role of culturally relevant pedagogy? How important are early immersion research opportunities in retaining Hispanic American males? What are particularly effective models of foundation mathematics and English instruction in the context of STEM?
- Mentoring: The most significant questions in this strand concern the preparation of effective mentors and their engagement to reach more students. How are teachers and faculty enabled to mentor Latino men? How might miscommunications resulting from differences be minimized between faculty and students? What incentives exist for teachers and faculty to serve as mentors and how effective are such incentives? What are the characteristics of effective mentors and how can they be replicated? How are teacher and faculty mentors best used without straining their professional, psychological, or physical well-being?
Breakout Group 1C: Researchers with a Focus on Native American and Asian Pacific Islanders (Including Native Hawaiians)
Some members of this breakout group noted that among Native Americans and Asian Pacific Islanders, societal and cultural issues underlie a variety of other significant challenges (e.g., low socioeconomic status and associated problems with community safety, school quality, and teacher quality) to STEM participation and performance. Research may need to focus on the following questions:
- What drives low rates of educational interest and attainment of Native American males as well as high rates of incarceration and military service? What are the language and cultural barriers? In particular, what steps can be taken to reverse the commonly held view that higher education, particularly for Native American males, is a selfish pursuit that does not contribute to the general welfare of their families and communities?
- What is the role of education in traditional-culture versus dominant-culture settings? How does the lack of household and educational resources (often meager in comparison to those of majority communities) affect Native American males’ participation in STEM?
- How can pursuit of STEM education be facilitated for Native American males?
Participants in the breakout group articulated a number of challenges specific to Native American males. For example, unlike the other underrepresented minority populations, Native Americans have sovereign political identities and may identify as Native American, indigenous, or by tribal affiliation. Similarly, there are very distinct groups in Native American communities,
8 Another important concept is self-efficacy, which is “belief in one’s ability to perform a specific task.” It can affect the goals one sets and “is related to the adoption of more challenging goals and greater commitment to those goals.” See the Self-Efficacy in STEM Information Sheet, a product of the NAE and SWE-AWE. www.engr.psu.edu/awe/misc/ARPs/ARP_SelfEfficacy_InfoSheet_122208.pdf.
with unique challenges, that could benefit from research and interventions beyond those developed for African American and Hispanic American males. Furthermore, Native American males share a lack of visibility and are often misrepresented and least understood because of widespread lack of knowledge about the diversity of tribal nations in the United States. At the individual level, they have somewhat fluid definitions of who they are—how they self-identify—and this can impact how society views them.
Some participants did not believe it was appropriate for Native Americans and Pacific Islanders to be placed in a single breakout group and argued for distinctions among Native Americans, Native Pacific Islanders, and Asians to recognize their unique issues. Native Pacific Islanders do not have federal recognition of sovereignty. Asian Pacific Islanders are often not viewed as minorities and have struggled with recognition. The Asian population includes US-born and immigrant populations that are very diverse (e.g., Hmong) and are often lumped into the category of “Asian” without acknowledgment of how diverse these communities are.
During the plenary session following the breakout groups, four common themes emerged in the rapporteurs’ remarks:
- Research is needed to define the components of demonstrated models of success for minority males in STEM.
- Clear conceptualization of the challenges and positive factors that impact the academic success of minority males in STEM could result in powerful new models and theoretical frameworks.
- Research is needed to enhance understanding of the experiences of boys of color both within and across racial and ethnic groups, including self-identity and how it affects decision making about degree and career aspirations in STEM.
- Race and ethnicity are not always well defined and too often groups of underrepresented minority males are lumped together in categories that do not facilitate understanding.