In the United States, historically marginalized groups, including women, African Americans, and Latin@s, are vastly underrepresented in the STEM workforce. There is little research on the relations hip between undergraduate mathematics instruction and the retention and achievement of historically underrepresented groups in STEM. This three-year project addresses this needed area of research by using a mixed-methods design to begin finding answers to the following questions: What specific patterns of peer and instructor interactions contribute to or reinforce a culture of mathematics learning shaped by messages of innate ability and values of individual competition? Why does this quality of instruction have a larger negative impact on women and students of color? What, specifically, makes this instruction inadequate in meeting the academic and social needs of underrepresented groups in mathematics? Do instructors recognize these actions as contributing to this underrepresentation in mathematics?
To answer these questions, the project uses observational study and stimulus-recall interviews to identify specific events in pre-calculus and calculus classrooms that women and students of color find potentially marginalizing, and investigate the perceptions of these events from the vantage points of undergraduate mathematics instructors as well as students who are adequately represented and underrepresented in STEM. This is followed by quantitative studies using focus group interviews and surveys to assess the generalizability of these findings with a national sample of undergraduate students and mathematics course instructors. Finally, professional development materials are designed and then piloted with instructors that intend to create more equitable learning environments in undergraduate mathematics classrooms. The goal of this project is to contribute to creating more equitable mathematics learning environments at the undergraduate level and increasing the number of STEM majors to meet the demands of the national workforce. A critical outcome of this work will be a collection of materials including a synthesis of typical events in undergraduate mathematics classrooms that marginalize students, various students' documented perceptions of classroom events, and recommended instructional practices for more equitably responding to their occurrences that can be shared widely to the benefit of the broader STEM education community. ... [more]