Identity Threat in the Classroom: Review of Women’s Motivational Experiences in the Sciences

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Abstract

This review article examined research on women’s experiences in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in an identity-threat context, highlighting the importance of motivational variables (achievement motivation, belonging, and experience of interest) as mediators. The specific focus is the impact of identity threat on the paucity of women in STEM fields at both the educational and professional levels, highlighting the differential motivational experiences of women in STEM that result from the negative association between women and sciences. Focus includes achievement motivation, belonging, and experience of interest as key variables in explaining the relation between identity threat and performance/persistence in STEM for women. The first half of the review examines the empirical research that has used motivational variables to explain the relation between identity-threat and performance gap for women; the second half discusses interventions that have successfully increased women’s motivational experiences in STEM. This review provides a unique contribution to the literature by focusing on the translational aspect of the multiple mediator model within the identity-threat framework.

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