INTERVENTIONS DEFINED, IMPLEMENTED, AND EVALUATED
Elizabeth Stage is director of critique and consensus at the National Research Council's National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment. In a distinguished career in the field of education, Dr. Stage previously was executive director of the California Science Project, which works out of the President's Office, University of California system, and deals with in-service programs for teachers, kindergarten through community college. Prior to that, she was associated with the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California at Berkeley, for 10 years.
Dr. Stage received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Smith College. She subsequently taught mathematics and science in middle school in Massachusetts and then earned a masters and doctorate in science education at Harvard. Her professional experience with K-12 is the basis of this presentation on the issues associated with interventions at the undergraduate level to enhance the participation of women in science and engineering.
A Brief History and Conceptual Framework
In 1978 at Berkeley, Lucy Sells coined the expression ''critical filter'' to describe the role that high school mathematics preparation plays in the lives of women and minorities who are seeking to become scientists and to work in mathematics-based fields. She approached the staff at the Lawrence Hall of Science and said, "This is a public problem and you are a public science center. What are you going to do about it?" Not only did the Lawrence Hall of Science respond to her findings, but the data and her interpretations provided a conceptual frame for a national response to a problem that had clear and far-reaching implications. Funding agencies responded to Sells' findings by focusing research on females and mathematics, engineering and science studies, and careers. Under Susan Chipman's leadership, the National Institute of Education funded a series of studies that investigated different
hypotheses and used different methodologies to begin to explain why young women were less likely to take elective mathematics courses, with a view to changing the situation once it was better understood. About a decade ago, we began to hear and act upon the findings of this research.
The result was a wealth of intervention programs in science, mathematics, and engineering targeted toward women and focused on improving attitudes and increasing interest and participation. Perhaps more importantly, the design of many of these intervention programs was based upon the recently developed research base. In fact, there was tremendous respect and collegiality and considerable interaction between and among the scholars and the practitioners. This close coupling of research and practice contributed to the way that intervention programs developed and were implemented and evaluated. An appropriate definition of an intervention program should reflect this research-practice connection: Having identified a problem to solve, select and implement a strategy (either to change the situation or to compensate somehow for a situation that you cannot change) and then continually monitor to see if your strategy is successful. The definition is, therefore, simple, straightforward, and empirical.
Defining a Problem
There is great diversity in the approach taken by intervention program designers, beginning with the way that the problem-to-be-solved is described. First, there is a tension between a recognition of the complexity of the situation and not being overwhelmed by it. A myriad of factors combine to influence a child's interest in science or mathematics studies and related careers. These include both cognitive and affective factors, which vary depending upon the age of the child. Other important influences originate in the support and educational system in which the child functions: school, home, extracurricular activities, peer, and the media, for example. Previous research has shown us that these factors tend to work in combination with each other; therefore, we know that a single intervention event is unlikely to change all of the factors involved. Rather, systemic change in a variety of areas is needed. It is unlikely, however, that one can attempt to simultaneously approach all of these problems. One must define a manageable problem, one on which we can reasonably hope to have impact. This is especially
true for science-related intervention programs for females since, many times, the program staff are doing the program on a volunteer basis and have other primary job responsibilities.
Intervention Targets and Strategies
The intervention program designer also must decide exactly where the "problem" lies: Do we need to change girls' attitudes and behaviors, or do we need to change the system, which is not serving their needs? Or is there a combination of these approaches that functions more effectively? Many programs target individuals as participants to approach the problem of "How can we keep talent in the pool?"
Programs for talented youth are an example of those designed to address that question; not all programs agree on where the "problem" lies. At one end of the spectrum is the Johns Hopkins program for recruiting mathematically talented youth. Individuals associated with the administration of that program periodically identify some genetic or other biological rationale for not having enough women in the program (for example, Benbow and Stanley, 1984).
At the other end of the spectrum is the work of Harvey Keynes at the University of Minnesota Talented Youth Mathematics Program. Dr. Keynes asked why there were not more girls in his program and what he could do about it. He examined the procedures used to recruit and select students for the program and then modified the procedures until he got the number of females that he felt represented an extensive tapping of the female talent pool. Next, he changed the course, teaching styles, and interaction patterns in the class until he reached an acceptable success rate of recruitment, achievement, and retention of young women in his program. He is using a very systematic approach to fixing the system and procedures in order to be successful—a very different approach toward cultivation of individual talent. A similar approach is being taken in the new federal initiative, National Science Scholars Program, which has designated that, from every Congressional District, one female and one male scholar will receive a scholarship for undergraduate study in a scientific discipline. This action demonstrates a commitment to the beliefs that talented males and females are in the population and it is our job (or in this case, the job of the politicians) to find them.
Teachers, Faculty, and Adult Leaders
Often those who begin programs targeted at individual females move their efforts to the faculty level, whether that is teachers, adult leaders, or supervisors. One of the most frequent forms of science-related intervention programs is in-service programs for K-12 teachers focusing on equity issues. The overall goal is to help teachers and schools to be more effective in increasing interest and motivation in science and mathematics among girls.
Research has shown, however, that women often enter science-related fields because of experiences outside school: being part of the science club, visiting the Exploratorium, and participating in organizations such as Girl Scouts of the USA or Girls Inc. (formerly Girls Clubs of America). It is very promising to see that the notion of adult leadership and influence has been expanded from school teachers to include adults in the community. The work of Girls Inc. (1990), the proliferation of programs working with parents such as Family Math (Stenmark et al., 1986), and the work of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) with local Girl Scout leaders (Matyas, 1992) are examples of this trend. By working with women from the community who typically have not had opportunities to be successful in science, we create not only some new role models but also some agents of change in the community. That expansion of our vision from the conventional institutions to the informal community institutions is an important one.
Expanding our concept of important potential target groups for intervention should not stop with adults, but must also include peers. As we develop programs in mathematics, science, and engineering to attract young women, it is essential that we recognize that not all males are served well by the existing system either and that many young men leave the educational system with the same stereotypes about women that intervention programs have spent considerable effort to debunk among their female peers. The Women in Engineering Program at Purdue University, building on a long track record of successful work with women, has begun to work with the men in engineering at Purdue in order to create a climate in which people more comfortably interact. This is success at an institutional level, where each person takes responsibility for the success of all members of the group. However, it takes a fairly confident and mature program to initiate this type of effort; I would not recommend it as a first step!
Intervention Mechanisms: Beyond Isolated Programs
In the AAAS report, Investing in Human Potential: Science and Engineering at the Crossroads, Marsha Matyas and Shirley Malcom (1991) provided a framework of analysis for the progression of intervention mechanisms that I've begun to describe above (see Figure 4-2, page 56). First, we find isolated projects, which are most effective for creating awareness, for getting people to collect data, and for sorting out problem definition. A good example of an isolated project is an Expanding Your Horizons conference at which a group of people volunteer a day of their time to act as science and engineering role models. During these conferences, young women can sample the vast variety of opportunities in math-and science-based fields of study and work. At such a conference, they can also learn that all scientists (or engineers, or mathematicians, etc.) do not look the same and that a person does not have to follow a set lifestyle in order to be successful. Such art activity can be a wonderful eye-opening or door-opening experience. It may sensitize a young woman to seeing things differently at school and to the benefits of attending summer enrichment activities. It helps to bring some women in the scientific community and their male supporters into contact with one another; this often leads to additional local projects and interventions for girls and women.
The next step in this progression is recognition that isolated and infrequent intervention activities will not accomplish larger-and longer-term goals. This often leads to more regular and frequent activities, often organized on a department-level basis. These programs usually stem from the leadership of a department chair or dean. The new Women in Science Project at Dartmouth (Muller, 1991) is an example of this type of departmental commitment.
These activities often lead to the development of cross-departmental activities such as women's centers or women's studies departments. For example, strong Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Association for Women in Science (AWIS) chapters may have the support of an administrator and from them there emerges a network of support and activities to increase the recruitment and retention of young women into science and engineering.
Often these networking activities succeed because they provide opportunities to both women professionals and students to get support and to give support to others. It is important in creating successful programs (especially those with volunteer role models) to provide both kinds of experience.
As we move up the coordination line, at some point, coordinated programs must give way to structural reform. Examples might be changes in policies related to how quickly a student must take his/her oral examinations after being admitted to candidacy or how much time a student is allowed to take to write a dissertation. As Matyas and Malcom (1991) point out, this maturing of intervention programs moves from individual commitment (that is, one inspired person who rallies people together and either obtains soft money or works on a volunteer basis) and grows into hard money, line item and institutional budgets, and a strong institutional commitment. This is essential to avoid the demise of a program solely associated with one committed person when that person is no longer available to administer it.
Although the definition of an intervention program provided earlier clearly suggests that intervention programs must "continually monitor to see if [their] strategy is successful," in reality most intervention programs have not extensively evaluated their effectiveness. According to Malcom and Matyas' study of intervention programs housed at U.S. colleges and universities, only about half had done any kind of evaluation of their program activities. Rarely does one find comprehensive program evaluations including cost effectiveness analyses and assessment of longitudinal impact on participants, yet it is this kind of information that can continue to inform and expand the research base on which these projects were initially built. Current programs are doing a better job than did programs in the 1970s and 1980s at:
building in more extensive evaluation plans that can inform the ongoing development and implementation of the program's activities (formative evaluation) and can determine whether the program's initial goals are being met (summative evaluation);
developing more realistic time-lines for program implementation in order to allow the intervention program to be "up and running" before summative evaluation takes place; and
securing funding to support these evaluation efforts.
Some intervention programs are developing evaluation plans that are more sophisticated—adapted to the specific intervention activities (for example, assessment of changes in teaching strategies) and to the particulars of the intervention situation (for example, informal, after-school settings versus in-class settings). In general, however, effective intervention program evaluation might be considered work-in-progress.
Challenges for the '90s
As the backdrop for future planning, we must consider the following: What is the problem that we want to solve? Do the kids or the system need "fixing"? If we just build young women's confidence and self-esteem a little, will they make it through the existing system? Or are there ways to create a more effective and supportive educational and professional environment that can better foster achievement and self-esteem among both women and men?
The American Association of University Women recently commissioned Wellesley College to conduct a study of precollege students. They looked at the drop in self-esteem during adolescence—a time when both boys and girls experience a drop in self-confidence. Among their findings were the following:
For boys, 67 percent of those in elementary school expressed confidence in themselves. The percentage drops about 10 points, to 56 percent, at middle school and another 10 points, to 46 percent, at high school, for a total of 20 points from elementary to high school.
Notable differences were found for girls: 65 percent of African American girls expressed self-confidence at the elementary level, 59 percent at middle school, and 58 percent at high school; in fact, they have a slight edge on males, on average. However, the confidence level for white girls goes from 55 percent expressing confidence in themselves at elementary school, down to 29 percent at middle school, and 22 percent at high school. Hispanic girls start out with a slight plus—68 percent of them are self-confident in elementary school, 54 percent in middle school, and 30 percent in high school (AAUW, 1991).
The Wellesley researchers did not break out this particular study by academic success level but, in general, high-achieving girls at adolescence face
considerable conflict between continuing to work for academic success (which is often perceived by peers as "nerdy") and giving in to pressures to suppress their academic talent in order to be more socially accepted, especially by their male peers. This phenomenon was described by Casserly in 1979 and is still regularly reported by school teachers and intervention program directors today. Certainly, at the undergraduate level, the self-confidence of high-achieving young women drops significantly compared to that of their male peers (Arnold, 1985).
This unsupportive adolescent climate suggests that every effort should be taken to support individuals and help them to retain their self-confidence and enthusiasm. The current climate is too treacherous to stop at the individual student level, however, so "fixing" females so they can survive the current system is a necessary but insufficient condition for success at any educational level.
Working to change curricula and teaching strategies is somewhat more systematic and has greater potential for systemic effects, since these factors (and the educators who implement them) are significant contributors to the development of individual student talent. It is essential that teachers be provided with curricula that acknowledge and support the contributions of scientists and engineers of both sexes and diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds and cultures. Curricular examples and analogies must be diverse to relate to this broad audience as well. And teaching strategies must be selected according to their effectiveness with students of differing learning styles.
A variety of successful model intervention programs working with teachers and schools are available. It is important to reiterate that well-evaluated programs that effect changes in teacher behaviors or in curriculum that benefit female and/or minority students generally benefit other key persons as well—white male students; teachers; the school, in general; and the community. This should not come as a surprise, especially for those in systems engineering: If one takes a careful look at a situation and tries to make it work better, it works better. It bears repeating, though, that analysis and evaluation are the keys to success.
We must expand our intervention efforts to include not only the school, but the community as well. As we work toward this goal, we must expand our definition of the word "community." Among the most
disheartening reports from recently collected data is that black females are better served in programs that are for minorities than they are in programs targeted at women and that Hispanic women are virtually unserved by either the minority programs or the women's programs (Matyas and Malcom, 1991). We must rethink what we mean by an "outreach" program and must forge coalitions between those who coordinate outreach or intervention efforts and those who are leaders in the particular communities we hope to reach.
Beyond supporting individual students and teachers and creating a community of support, we also need to think about "fixing science" in the sense that Linda Wilson alluded to in her comments and that Evelyn Fox Keller (1985) writes about most eloquently. Stated most simply, Keller's position is that if you only change the students to fit the existing system, you have "Dress-For-Success" science, whereby students and professionals may look the part by wearing lab coats and conducting experiments but are not full members of the scientific community. In the short term this is not a bad strategy: at the University of California-Irvine, Eloy Rodriquez dresses migrant youngsters in lab coats and brings them into the laboratory. They put on the mantle of scientists, have their picture taken with the microscope with which they work, and develop a sense of tremendous pride. But dressing up for the occasion is not all that is required. The argument is that if enough women and/or minorities get into the scientific community, then we can fix the system. But if along the way we lose the talent and enthusiasm of so many young women and young men who could not survive the system, the price may be too high and the strategy an ineffective one.
Future Intervention: Focus on Systemic Change
We must work at every level.
To date, we have made the least conscious effort to improve undergraduate programs, especially what the University of California system calls the "lower division" (the freshman and sophomore years). Data released by the Higher Education Research Institute (Green, 1989) show that the percentage of men intending to major in sciences at the undergraduate level fell from 14 percent in 1966 to 7 percent in 1988 (that is, by half). The percentage of women intending to major in sciences as undergraduates fell from 9 percent in 1966 to 5 percent in 1988. These drops in enrollment in undergraduate science courses have occurred despite committed efforts of
people both in California and across the nation. We can only imagine what the statistics would have been if no intervention programs had been instituted.
We must target more than just the transition points.
Many intervention strategies have targeted transition points to make sure that students get into the right college preparatory sequence in high school; they are admitted to the university; they seriously look at the majors that will lead to career opportunities; and they get into graduate programs. However, by focusing only on the transition points, we miss some very critical areas, including the lower division. A number of scientific societies have released reports stating that the lower division does not serve anyone well. It does not serve future scientists because it discourages some of our brightest people from staying. It does not encourage future science teachers because of the way it models teaching and learning science. It does not inspire the general public to think that science is something that they could possibly learn so our elementary teachers are discouraged from studying or teaching any science.
By looking at the whole system, it becomes apparent that there is plenty of room to effect change at every level. We need to think about where the problems lie. If we have the energy and determination to attack the problem at the structural level—the systemic level, the "We can really change science if we seek to" level—then we should try to do so, or at least have that as our ultimate goal. We must make this our aspiration because, if we keep on attempting to make everyone else as persistent as we are, progress will be on a very, very slow road.
In closing, I would like to comment about where I see success in science for women fitting into the overall context of what is going on in educational reform right now. Fortunately, current rhetoric has shifted from blaming the individual for his or her lack of success to looking to the system to take responsibility. The Mathematical Sciences Education Board (1989) slogan that "mathematics should be a pump rather than a filter" is an excellent one. The movement toward standards and assessment in both mathematics and science has the potential for great good or great harm. If equity issues are addressed as a key element of the standards and assessment movement,
much good will be accomplished. To date, however, the area of assessment has received less attention in terms of equity issues. It needs our full attention now in terms of the national agenda of educational reform.
Finally, the social and political reform climate and its inattention to women are of concern. Most people who are not directly involved in equity education or science-related intervention programs believe that the problem has been solved. ''Didn't we already take care of the women's issue?'' is a frequent response to attempts to inform the larger community of the current status of the education and employment of females, particularly in the sciences and engineering. Instead, what has occurred is a masking of the issues, particularly at the K-12 level. After the report, A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) was released, many states increased their high school graduation requirements so that more years of mathematics and science were required for high school graduation. Therefore, young women often were required to take the courses where gender differences in enrollment were previously seen. Gender differences in overall number of high school science and mathematics courses decreased but, upon closer examination, important differences between males and females remained. Females were still avoiding the highest-level options in science and mathematics: physics, calculus, and advanced chemistry. Therefore, the effect of the reforms was to raise the stakes for the most talented students, and females were still avoiding the courses that could be the real keys to success in undergraduate science, mathematics, and engineering programs. These differences are even more dramatic for whites versus minority group members.
Tackling the issues facing girls and women in mathematics, science, and engineering on a one-by-one basis and through isolated intervention programs is labor-intensive and provides for only slow and sporadic change. Attempting systemic change using these methods is virtually impossible. Collaborative strategies implemented by coalitions of administrators, faculty, and community leaders both within an institution and among institutions are needed to begin to build the ultimate intervention programs—the ones that can resolve the disparity in science, mathematics, and engineering for women and men, once and for all.
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