Schooling girls in a rural community: an examination of female science identity and science career choices

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University of Alabama Libraries

There is a gap in existence between the number of males and females entering science careers. Research has begun to focus largely on how identity impacts the selection of such careers. While much research has been done to examine the factors that impact student identity, little work has been done to examine what happens to female students who have been successful in science in a rural K-12 school once they leave high school and enter the world of academia. Thus, this study examined the following questions: 1. How do three recent female high school graduates from rural K-12 high schools narrate their identity? 2. How do the females narrate their experiences in a rural community and high school in relation to their science identity? 3. What do the participants describe as influencing their academic and career choices as they transition into the life of a college student? This study involved three female participants from a small rural community in a southeastern state. Each female has lived their entire life in the community and has attended only one K-12 school. All three females ranked in the top ten of their senior class and excelled in their science coursework. Additionally, each female elected to attend college locally and to live at home. The study utilized the qualitative methodology of interpretive biography. The researcher used a guided interview protocol with participants which served as the basis for the creation of their narrative biographies. The biographies were then analyzed for emergent themes. Sociocultural theory, identity theory, and critical feminism provided the theoretical frameworks utilized in data analysis. Findings from this study suggested that there were many differing factors influencing the science identity and career choices of the females under study. However, the most salient factor impacting their choices was their desire to remain in their hometown. Directions for future research suggestions involve exploring female students who elect to move from rural communities for their collegiate endeavors. Another suggestion was to interview those individuals deemed to be significant in the lives of the females to gain insights into their identities within different situations.

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Gender studies, Women's studies, Education, Sciences