How Important Are Same-Gender Role Models to Middle School Girls? Five Characteristics of Mentors Who Sustain Middle-School Girls’ Interest in Science Careers

Donna Farland-Smith

Abstract


Content area specialists (scientists) are often recruited to address issues of retention and recruitment in science education. Yet, guidance in the selection of these types of mentors or role models remains unpublished. One strategy for selecting scientists/role models is to select them on the basis of same gender as the participants. This study examined eight scientists (four gender-matched and two gender-mismatched) as they worked with middle-school girls. The data was collected during ‘Side-by-Side’ interaction with content specialists and has implications for classroom practice. These experiences demonstrate that working with highly-skilled, highly-trained scientists reveal that unless the scientists understand the difference between content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, they are not open or sometimes unwilling to learning science-content pedagogy. The Mentor-Approach-to-Teaching Continuum as developed in this study can be used to better help teachers understand and assist scientists in their teaching roles. As middle-school girls’ experiences with science content specialists helped the students shape their perception of scientists, careful consideration, preparation, and maintenance of these relationships were critical to the girls sustaining an interest in science. This paper provides suggestions for helping teachers achieve success with science content specialists and provides answers to the question of the importance of same-sex role models in mentoring young girls in science. It also identifies five characteristics educators should look for in selecting science mentors who would be successful in broadening students’ perceptions of scientists.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/jet.v2i1.5423

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