Dissertation Chair: Dr. Yvette Lapayese
Living Learning Communities: An Intervention in Keeping Women Strong in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
The purpose of this study was to expand on the current research pertaining to women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors, better understand the experiences of undergraduate women in the sciences, identify barriers to female persistence in their intended STEM majors, and understand the impact of the STEM co-educational Living Learning Community (LLC) model on female persistence. This study employed a mixed-methods approach that was grounded in standpoint methodology. The qualitative data were collected through focus groups and one-on-one interviews with the female participants and was analyzed through a critical feminist lens utilizing standpoint methodology and coded utilizing inductive analysis. The quantitative data were collected and analyzed utilizing a simple statistical analysis of key academic variables indicative of student success: cumulative high school GPAs, SAT scores, first year cumulative GPAs, freshman persistence patterns in the intended major, and freshman retention patterns at the university. The findings of this study illustrated that the co-educational LLC model created an inclusive academic and social environment that positively impacted the female participants' experiences and persistence in STEM. The findings also found the inclusion of men in the community aided in the demystification of male superiority in the sciences for the female participants. This study also highlighted the significance of social identity in the decision making process to join a science LLC.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Emily Arms
Surface Equity: A Case Study of Gender Equity and Inequity in Elementary Classrooms
The purpose of this study was to examine the teaching practices and perceptions of teachers, and how those perceptions and practices contributed to or perpetuated gender equity and inequity in elementary classrooms. Data for this study was collected in three elementary classrooms (third, fourth, and fifth grade) in an urban public school in southern Los Angeles. All three teacher participants were female, and were self-identified feminists. The data collected for this study showed coeducational settings to be biased in favor of boys in classroom interactions, students calling-out, teachers calling on students, gender geography, negative student behavior, teacher discipline, early finishers, teacher feedback, the reinforcement of gender roles and stereotypes, classroom climate, lack of feminist pedagogy, classroom practice, gendered language, textbooks, and the use of color in the classroom. The gender-equitable practices the teachers in this study were implementing in their classrooms such as calling on male and female students equally, seating children in coed groups, and making sure that classrooms were gender balanced was gender equitable teaching practice, but it only scratched the surface of gender equity. The bias in favor of boys observed in these classrooms was at odds with the teacher's beliefs that they were creating a gender equitable environment by providing only surface interventions which led to the finding of surface equity. Although these teachers were implementing some gender equitable teaching practices, they were not implementing any revolutionary pedagogy like feminist pedagogy which could negate inequity and provide for more than just surface equity. It is recommended that changes be made to policy in teacher education requirements and programs. Ongoing professional development must also be provided to classroom practitioners and educational leaders in order to move beyond surface equity. There must be continued research on gender and the creation of equity to create gender equitable learning environments that move beyond surface equity to create social change.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Karen Huchting
The Impact of Gay Straight Alliances in Middle Schools
Most schools are not safe environments for lesbian, gay, and bisexual students or for individuals who are questioning their sexual orientation. Harassment and victimization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning (LGBQ) students is pervasive. The harassment and victimization result in these students having higher rates of absenteeism and lower academic achievements than their peers. To date, most research has focused on primarily high school lesbian, gay, and bisexual students. Very few studies have included students questioning their sexual orientation. This quantitative descriptive study utilized an anonymous survey to gather information about middle school LGBQ students' experiences with harassment. The study included 208 middle school students. The results were compiled into three groups (lesbian/gay/bisexual, questioning, and straight) and compared. Findings indicated that LGBQ students experience significantly more harassment than straight students and questioning students are more likely to experience victimization than lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight students. The findings support the need for middle school administrators and staff members to take steps to create more inclusive school climates for LGBQ students.
Dissertation Chair: Dr. Elizabeth Reilly
Women Principals in Jewish Secular High Schools in Israel: Access and Progress
This quantitative investigation focused on women high school principals at Jewish secular schools throughout Israel. Despite challenges, Israeli women have succeeded in obtaining over half of the principal positions at Jewish secular high schools, but the degree to which there is equal gender access to leadership roles in the school system remains unclear. This study examined whether there was clustering of women in high school principal positions in certain geographical areas, the process by which these women obtained principal positions, what obstacles the women overcame, and an analysis if respondents differed by district in terms of their career paths, career breaks, and military experiences. This study showed that although women are in principal positions in equal or greater numbers as men depending on the region, women had a different path than men to obtain this role. The key findings in this research were that 89.5% of women principals were able to return at the same level prior to taking a career break and that 31.8% of female principals had male mentors.