Understanding the Role of Cultural and Career Purpose Orientations in Underrepresented Minority Science Student Success

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

The overall aim of the project is to examine whether and how the fit between underrepresented minority (URM) students’ communal cultural orientations and perceptions of science influence their science course engagement and science career interest, particularly during the foundational science courses when URM attrition is a major problem. Specifically, the project is designed to answer three research questions: (1) What are URM students’ initial perceptions of science and the purpose for pursuing science careers, and do these perceptions predict engagement in foundational science courses and interest in science careers? (2) How does the foundational course curriculum change these perceptions (for better or worse)? and (3) Can simple course activities designed to connect cultural purpose orientations to what students are learning in these foundational courses increase science interest for URM students?


California State University, Long Beach.

Research Design: 

The project uses a longitudinal and comparative research design and will generate evidence that is descriptive [observational], associative/correlational [quasi-experimental], and causal [experimental, quasi-experimental, statistical modeling]. Original data are being collected on undergraduate students, particularly underrepresented minority students, using school records, assessments of learning, and survey research [self-completion questionnaire, structured interviewer-administered questionnaire, focus groups]. Class essay assignments for students to create communal purpose orientations to science class material are being compared to essays about what they are learning in class.

The project is using a number of instruments or measures, including:

  1. Johnson’s (2002) ‘Work Values’ survey
  2. Ryff’s (1989) ‘Personal relations with others’ survey
  3. Diekman et al.’s (2010) ‘Communal purpose goal endorsement’ survey
  4. domain-specific situational interest (Linnenbrink-Garcia et al., 2010)
  5. individual interest (Marsh, Koller, Trautwein, Ludtke, & Baumert, 2005)
  6. classwork-related processing, persistence, and effort as measured by Elliot, McGregor, and Gable (1999).
  7. Science Identity Scale (Chemers, Zurbriggen, Syed, Goza, & Bearman, 2011)
  8. career motivation developed to assess perceived competence, interest, future interest, engagement and perceived career value
  9. A career goal affordance measure has been developed by the research team for use in ongoing projects and pilot data. The measure, adapted from a combination of Johnson’s (2002) ‘Work Values’ survey and Diekman et al.’s (2010) ‘Perceived Goal Affordance’ measure, measures the extent to which specific careers (e.g., science careers) provide opportunities to fulfill the seven types of goals measured in the work values survey (see Thoman et al., in press BioScience)

Interview and focus group data will be submitted to qualitative content analysis. Longitudinal survey data will be analyzed with structural equation models. Data from the randomized experimental study will be analyzed with regression and ANOVA.


Findings will be posted as they become available.

Other Products: 

Intervention to increase motivation.