Take time to consider the role of racialization when evaluating STEM interventions by Dawn Henderson, Chad Markert, and Breonte Guy

Greetings, we are Drs. Dawn Henderson, Chad Markert, and Breonte Guy. We have collaborated on an NSF HBCU-UP Targeted Infusion Project (TIP) over the past four years and presented findings from our project at the previous three annual AEA conferences. Our work has led to valuable insights when it comes to evaluating projects designed to increase underrepresented minority (URM) student participation and persistence in STEM. Here we share some insight from our 2018 AEA presentation, “Using an HBCU-UP TIP to model “truth”: Exploring the sociohistorical context of URM student participation in STEM.”

Evaluators who are evaluating projects designed to increase URM student participation and persistence in STEM must consider the role of racialization in shaping students’ identities, representation, and educational experiences. Here are some examples of how this plays out:

Racialization: Racialization, the process of race-making, influences STEM knowledge in ways that privilege Whiteness and males. Race-making shapes our metaphors, such as perceiving a “scientist” as a white male.

Identity: Race-making influences identity formation. Identity includes how one thinks about the self, how one feels about the self, and how the self chooses to behave.

Scientist identity is an indicator of how one perceives and feels about themselves as a scientist and the expression of that identity in areas such as choice of major and career

Representation: Race-making influences the representation of individual identities and groups represented in STEM.

  • African Americans, Latinx, and Native Americans comprise, on average, less than 6% of the total professionals in science and engineering
  • White/European Americans are overrepresented in STEM fields; accounting, on average, for about 73% of professionals in science and engineering occupations.

Educational Experiences: Race-making influences whether you will attend an under-resourced school, the types of math courses taken, and other educational opportunities.

We suggest that evaluators consider the impact racialization has on URM students’ participation and persistence in STEM. Here are some hot tips for guided questions:

  • How does this STEM intervention consider racialization? Specifically, how has racialization shaped the identities and educational experiences of URM students?
  • How do we consider the contextual factors in evaluating STEM interventions with URM students?
  • How do we embed findings from our evaluation in the socio-cultural experiences of URM students? Mainly, how does racialization shape our results in ways where we may further disadvantage, or perpetuate deficit perspectives of URM students?

Check out these Rad Resources:

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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