How faculty behavior impacts student participation in STEM
As college students decide whether or not to pursue careers in science, a sense of belonging makes a critical difference.
To that end, faculty who behave “communally,” as opposed to “independently,” will have better success directing their students into fields associated with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), according to new research led by University of Utah social psychologists, led by Jacqueline Chen, an associate professor of psychology. Communal behaviors are defined as behaviors focused on other people, often involving building and maintaining social relationships. Independent behaviors are actions taken alone or focused on the self.
“What I would like to say is, ‘Faculty, your behaviors matter. Students are watching you and based on your behaviors, deciding whether your field is right for them,’” said Jacqueline Chen. “Faculty can help students feel like they belong by making visible the communal behaviors that they engage in, and letting students know they’re there to support them.”
Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, her findings have been published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.