Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Wenfan Yan

Second Advisor

Patricia Krueger-Henney

Third Advisor

Amanda Hattaway


This study examined factors contributing to the underrepresentation of Black students in STEM majors and fields. The author used social cognitive career theory to explore the factors that most influence the majority of Black students’ algebra test scores and the potential relationship between those scores and a student’s intent to pursue a college STEM major. The author also examined the impact of stereotype threat on Black students’ academic performance and how stereotype threat related to their underrepresentation in STEM.

The findings from the study’s quantitative phase suggest that Black students’ algebra test scores are most influenced by the following factors (in decreasing order of influence): algebraic background, self-perceived math ability, attitude toward math, and motivation level. Contrary to the author’s initial hypothesis, the quantitative results showed no significant relation between a Black student’s algebra test scores and their intent to pursue a college STEM major. The results also revealed that a significant number of Black students intended to pursue a STEM major but lacked the mathematical background required for such studies.

In the study’s qualitative phase, the author conducted semi-structured interviews and a focus group to better understand the quantitative findings. This second phase investigated factors constituting barriers for students who lacked the required mathematical background and effective methods for strengthening that background. During this phase, student discussions highlighted four major themes regarding influences on their mathematical background: frustration with the discovery method, impact of afterschool activities, peer support, and anxiety with math class.

The research findings have implications for policymakers who support funding for research and professional development around understanding the influence of peer culture on student engagement and achievement, as well as afterschool programs that provide essential services for students. In addition, the findings highlight the need for education officials to adopt evaluation practices that allow teachers to use a variety of teaching methods to serve the diverse needs of students. The results also suggest the need for policymakers to promote collaboration between university teacher-education programs and community-based organizations that have an educational focus, as well as the essential collaboration of teachers and families, to better support students.


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