Discipline-Based Education Research Group


Date of this Version


Document Type



Presentation for DBER Group Discussion on 2015-02-26


Copyright (c) 2015 Trish Wonch Hill & Julia McQuillan


To investigate the role of friendships in science identity formation, we are conducting a longitudinal survey of 441 students in an ethnically diverse Title I Middle School. This research-based approach, framed within a sociological conceptual model, will provide depth in our understanding of how to motivate and engage youth from groups underrepresented in biomedical science, and will contribute to the sociological literature on identity formation. Science educators assume most youth have a natural propensity toward science and inquiry, and will engage with science activities and ideas if they are presented in fun and appealing ways. We call this natural propensity “discovery orientation.” We have designed and piloted a measure of “discovery orientation” by asking about science propensities without using the word “science.” The label science in our culture is imbued with stereotypes, mostly as “white” and “male”. By not using the word science in survey questions and by separately measuring explicit science identity, we are able to investigate whether labeling science makes a difference in youths’ identification as a science kind of person. Preliminary findings indicate that although discovery orientation does not vary by race or gender, science identity does. White boys have higher science identity than minority boys, minority girls and white girls. Minority boys and girls also have significantly lower science enjoyment and science competence than white boys. Minority boys and girls, and white girls are less likely to say that others see them as a ‘science kind of person’. Using structural equation modeling, we explore multiple pathways to science identity.