Inspiring Commitment for STEM Career Paths through Extended Women's Hackathons
The project, targeting high school Hispanic girls, will research how a coherent set of experiences supports student competency, motivation and persistence for productive participation in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT). workforce of the future. Participants will join other young women to take part in the Women's Hackathon @ CSUSM (California State University San Marcos). (A hackathon is an event that brings computer programmers and other interested people together to improve upon or build new software programs.) The participants will then participate in an after-school that focuses on computer programming, career education, team building, and the non-programming components of the software development process. The afterschool program will use a project-based learning approach that will extend the conceptual designs of project ideas proposed during the hackathon into real solutions, which will be presented by teams at a culminating public showcase. The project will reach 180 high school girls over the 3-year duration, with a majority of participants being Hispanic girls. In the context of these program activities, project research will focus on understanding the process by which skills and interest are transformed into commitment to an ICT career, particularly for Latinas. Project research findings will be widely disseminated to researchers and K-12 educators through educational research journals and education conferences. The project will disseminate its work to wider audiences through public and social media. This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by researching effective strategies for engaging Hispanic girls and other youth in ICT and STEM.
The project's research goal is to study how the relationships among interest, competency, self-efficacy, identity, and values influence commitment to pursue an ICT career pathway for young women, especially Latinas. The research will address two overarching research questions:
1. To what extent does the extended Hackathon program foster and sustain participants' sense of self-efficacy and identity with ICT careers, and align their perceptions of ICT workforce with their values; and
2. To what extent do self-efficacy, identity, and values build on interest and skills to increase participants' commitment to an ICT career path.
The project draws from current social psychological and educational research, and integrates self-persuasion, social learning, social identity, and goal congruity theories. This literature has revealed that, in addition to interest and competency, persistence in domains such as computer science is strongly predicted by domain-specific self-efficacy, identity, and an alignment with and internalization of the values of that field or endeavor. The comprehensive design of the research plan, if successful, will significantly advance basic research about commitment processes for individuals from groups underrepresented in the ICT workforce specifically, and STEM fields more broadly. Quantifying the impact of an extended program on downstream efficacy, identity and values processes will have a significant impact on potential modifications to existing intervention programs to increase their impact on increasing and broadening participation in ICT and STEM.