Philisophy Training


This training will cover the SPICE program theory of action including background on women in STEM, informal science education, motivaitonal theories, gender and STEM, and the program logic model. Once you have completed all the reading and videos please take the test linked here.


Why science? Why girls? Why middle school?

Despite decades of attention to the issue, women remain underrepresented in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines [1]. A wide range of literature shows that though girls show early interest in STEM and achieve on par with their male peers, girls and women disproportionately abandon STEM education and careers at every stage of development. Figure 1 provides one view of women's representation in STEM.

Chart of Women in STEM Education and Careers


Figure 1 - Percentage of Women in STEM Disciplines by Career Stage [2]

No matter where representation of women stands at early stages, women end up less than 30% of position holders in mature STEM careers. Current research on the issue points to motivation as a major factor in girls’ choices vis a vis STEM education and careers. Girls are not developing the same levels of interest and sense of belonging in STEM as their male peers during formal education [3, 4].

Informal science education is a promising new area for engaging underrepresented persons (women, students of color, disabled students, low-income/first generation students) with STEM.

Adolescence is a time of major motivational development and when the downturn in STEM interest and engagement is observed in students.

For these reason’s, the SPICE program seeks to target one at risk population at a key developmental stage in an effort to increase and sustain girls’ motivation for STEM education and careers.

Informal Science Education

Informal science education is all the STEM related learning that takes place outside of formal classrooms. Informal science education can take place in a wide range of settings and circumstances [5]. Typical examples of informal science education include museums, after school programs, summer programs, hobby clubs, zoos, and science festivals. Informal science education is distinct from formal science education in not just context but in duration and life stage. Formal education typically takes place from the age of 5-18 and as late as the mid to late 20s for most individuals. Informal science education is viewed as "life-long", "life-wide" and "life-deep" taking place both alongside formal education but also before and after formal education is concluded. Life-deep learning refers to the "beliefs, ideologies, and values associated with living life and participating in the cultural workings of both communities and broader society .”

Life-long, Life-Wide Learning

Figure courtesy of the Learning in Informal and Formal Environments (LIFE) Center (National Science Foundation)

Figure 2 courtesy of the Learning in Informal and Formal Environments (LIFE) Center (National Science Foundation)

The goals of informal science education are for individuals to:


  1. Experience excitement, interest, and motivation to learn about phenomena in the natural and physical world.
  2. Come to generate, understand, remember, and use concepts, explanations, arguments, models, and facts related to science.
  3. Manipulate, test, explore, predict, question, observe, and make sense of the natural and physical world.
  4. Reflect on science as a way of knowing; on processes, concepts, and institutions of science; and on their own process of learning about phenomena.
  5. Participate in scientific activities and learning practices with others, using scientific language and tools.
  6. Think about themselves as science learners and develop an identity as someone who knows about, uses, and sometimes contributes to science.

    For more about the goals and methods of informal science education see:

    Bell, P., et al. (2009). Learning science in informal environments. Washington, D.C., The National Academies Press.

    Motivational Theories

    Motivation is the process of initiating and sustaining behavior [6]. Motivation to learn is informed by students’ beliefs (self-related and external), cognition, goals, and experiences. Motivation is a psychosocial process that involves both internal and external factors. Individuals process social messages, beliefs about self (ability, suitability), and values when deciding to engage (or not engage) in behaviors. Beliefs are a key element of motivation that depend on students’ perceptions and assessments of experiences and feedback.

    Motivation is a strong predictor of engagement and achievement, more so than measures of ability or aptitude [6].

    Within the realm of motivation a number of constructs and theories have been developed. The following provide a brief introduction to key motivational theories employed in the SPICE program. The video linked here provides an introduction to basic motivational theory if you’re curious about motivation in psychology. The information below is from the world of educational research.

    Identity Formation Theory

    Identity formation is the development of a persistent, distinct, individual sense of self. Identity is related to self concept and encompasses self-beliefs, behaviors, and displays. The process develops the self as distinct and in relation to others and includes a sense of continuity (personal narrative), sense of uniqueness from others, and sense of affiliation (group belonging).

    Psychologist Erik Erikson developed and 8-phase model of psychosocial developmental in relation to identity formation [7]. Each phase was comprised of a key developmental conflict the individual needs to resolve before progressing to the next stage. Each stage builds on the successful completion of the previous stage. Stages not successfully resolved will reappear as issues in future development.

    Eriksonian Identity Development

    The stage most commonly studied and discussed is referred to as Ego Identity vs Role confusion and is known more commonly as adolescence. During this stage of development individuals attempt to develop a sense of self distinct from others, but also socially integrated. This phase is typified by lots of experimentation, rebellion, and a tension between the desire to stand out and fit in. The video below provides a brief overview of adolescent development. Watch through 8:20 for the relevant portions.

    Simplified Identity Formaton Theory

    Cote and Levine [8] have developed the simplified identity formation theory (SIFT) to explain the process by which individuals in late modern society audition, practice, and integrate (or reject) identities. The authors are careful to point out that identity is neither permanent nor essentialist. Identities in individuals are fluid, changing both over time and in different contexts.

    The SIFT model identifies three distinct but interrelated identity levels for individuals: social identity, personal identity, and ego identity. Social identity includes socially assigned roles (career, rank, gender) and attributes determined at birth (race/ethnicity, sex, socioeconomic status). Social identities can be earned, but many are determined by society. Personal identity is the set of behaviors, beliefs, and ideas an individual possesses and/or enacts socially. Personal identity can be thought of as the presentation individuals make to the world, similar to the identity management work of Goffman [9]. Ego identity is the individual’s sense of self, his/her values, history and sense of the future. Ego identity is heavily connected to the individual’s sense of continuity. Figure 3 shows the SIFT model integrated with SPICE program practice.

    Figure 3 a model of the cyclical multilevel process of science identity formation as described by the SIFT model. The squares represent identity types/levels with arrows representing connecting processes. The ovals represent the science identity formation process in the form of both external and internal processes/expressions [8].

    It is important to remember that individuals have a holistic integrated identity that is comprised of many more specific identities. The salience of component identities changes over time and from context to context. Identities may decrease in importance over time, but tend to remain and resurface when relevant. Identities are fluid and sticky.

    The SPICE program is seeking to foster in girls a sense of identity around science. Key elements necessary for supporting identity development involve opportunities to try on identities through role play and symbolic acts, experiences around the target identity, receiving feedback on the suitability of roles from models and peers, opportunities to build confidence around the target identity, and the “thinkability” of an identity [10].


    Self-efficacy is defined as the individual's belief in her/his ability to sucessfully complete a specfic task/engage with specific content. Like identity, self-efficacy is a dynamic, and context dependent set of beliefs, however, where a successfully integrated science identity will form a part of the larger (holistic) individual self-concept [11], self-efficacy is task specific [12]. Individual self-efficacy is created by interpretation of input from three primary sources: personal mastery experiences, vicarious learning experiences and social persuasion experiences. Personal mastery experiences are those that derive from successful completion of tasks of the same or similar nature to the task at hand. Successful completion of tasks perceived to be similar increases self-efficacy around a proposed task whereas failure to complete similar tasks results in reduced self-efficacy. Vicarious learning experiences are those that result from observing others perform a similar task. The process of observing others succeed (and fail), particularly individuals who are perceived to be similar to the observer, is another powerful predictor of self-efficacy [12, 13]. Social persuasion experiences are the feedback received from influential persons (teachers, in-group members, authority figures, peers) about the individuals’ capabilities [12]. Physiological State refers to the individuals sense of well-being and comfort and is a moderator of self-efficacy.

    Self-efficacy theory holds that perceptions of ability will predict the amount and duration of effort an individual will invest in an activity [12]. Effort in turn is a strong predictor of success. In simple terms, an individual’s belief in her ability to succeed is a strong predictor of motivation to persist in an area of study. Research into the self-efficacy of women and choices in careers has also shown that women’s career choices are heavily influenced by self-efficacy and that self-efficacy is influenced by perceptions of the gender appropriateness of career types [14, 15].

    The video embedded below provides an overview of self-esteem, self-efficacy, and locus of control.

    Research in gender and STEM has shown that girls often receive fewer mastery experiences in STEM than male peers (SITE), due to reduced availability of models and peers engaged in STEM have fewer vicarious learning opportunities, and social messaging about gender roles do not provide feedback indicating suitability of STEM careers for girls.

    Traditionally, mastery experiences are considered the most important in developing efficacy. However, research also shows evidence that vicarious (social modeling) learning opportunities may be more important in helping women build self-efficacy in STEM. Witnessing other girls/women successfully engaging in STEM activities and having opportunities to share learning processes have been shown to be powerful predictors of STEM engagement and achievement [13].

    Expectancy-Value Theory

    The expectancy-Value theory of education holds that students expectations and values for learning a particular subject or task will influence the amount of student engagement and achievement [15, 16].

    The expectancy component refers to individual beliefs about prospects for success at a task. Expectancy has been shown to predict performance on a wide range of tasks and tests. Students who believe they can be successful tend to outperform students with low expectations for success even when controlling for previous ability and achievement. That is, simply believing that one can do well at a task predicts a higher chance/degree of success.

    The value component refers to the individuals value for a particular learning exercise. This is typically referred to as subjective task value. If you’ve ever sat in a class wondering, “When will I ever use this?” you have experienced a learning value crisis. Subjective task value predicts the effort and engagement of individuals which in turn effects achievement.

    The video embedded below provides an overview of expectancy value theory. You only need to watch until about minute 7:00 of the video.


    Researcher Carol Dweck examined how children responded to tasks that were designed to be too difficult for them and was surprised to discover two very different understandings of intelligence. The video below describes these mindsets and how to support a “growth” mindset.

    Dweck and her students have applied this researcher to understanding the underrepresentation of girls in math and science. They have found that feedback provided to young girls is often based in the fixed-mindset model, reinforcing ideas of a need for effortless brilliance around math and science. Other researchers have found that women avoid fields which are stereotyped as requiring innate talent (economics, physics, computer science, engineering) [17].

    Figure 4 describes some of the characteristics of growth mindsets.

    Mindset Figure

    Interest Development

    Interest has been shown to be a powerful predictor of attention, goals, and achievement. Interest is described as a type of motiviation that describes engagement or predicts future engagement with classes of objects, events, or ideas (content).

    Hidi and Renninger [18] have proposed the four-phase model of interest development in which individuals move through different types of interest. The four-phase model is divided into two types of interest: situational and personal. The phases are considered to be sequential and cumulative, but not final. That is, interest can become dormant, or move back to an earlier stage. In particular, without support from others, interests may not develop or sustain. Each phase is characterized by varying amounts of affect (emotional display), level of knowledge, and value for the subject/activity.

    Triggered situational interest results in short term changes to affect (emotional display) and cognitive processing. This interest is triggered from an external source such as a surprising fact or observation. Triggered situational interest often occurs in response to puzzles, problems, group work, or questions.

    Maintained situational interest is engagement that is typically externally triggered, but extends over a longer period of time. Interest is sustained through meaningfulness of the tasks/activities to the individual. Learning environments and supports are important to sustaining interest. Engagement with peers helps support maintained situational interest.

    Emerging individual interest involves positive feelings, a store of knowledge, and value for the task content. Students value the opportunity to engage the content and will opt in if given the choice. Students may go beyond the minimum required effort. Interest is all or mostly self-generated. Some external support may still be required. Individuals may seek out supports such as signing up for courses or joining clubs or organizations related to the content.

    Well-developed personal interests are those that characterized by strong positive emotions, a greater store of knowledge and a higher value for the content. Students will seek out opportunities to engage with content. Students are increasingly autonomous in their exploration seeking out and generating new questions and problems. Individuals begin to anticipate next steps and work more intuitively with materials through expertise.

    Young students often exhibit strong situational interest for science, reporting positive attitudes toward the subject but lacking the ability to act autonomously or engage with materials without strong contextual supports. One of the goals of SPICE camp is to help students transition toward personal interest. The program seeks to do this by scaffolding learning and helping students learn how to creatively approach scientific problem solving and to pose their own questions. A goal of the program is to help students to the stage where they actively seek out opportunities to engage with science.

    Ways in which educators can support the development of personal interst are to:

    ·      Help sustain attention during challenging tasks through support

    ·      Providing opportunities for students to ask questions

    ·      Provide resources that promote problem-solving and strategy generation

    ·      Share passion for the content

    ·      Help students transition to autonomous engagement

    Optional Reading by Hidi & Renninger

    Gender, Motivation, and STEM

    The typical arc of development is for motivation around a content area to increase over time and then plateau. While affect for a subject area may remain constant the type of engagement tends to deepen over time. For example, two individuals may report the same amount of interest in model train building (e.g. “I love it!”), but occupy very different phases of interest. A young child enjoys playing with train sets and express strong interest when the subject is brought up, listing a few types of train cars. An older child who has built many train sets, researched types of model scales, and joined a model train society has a deeper level of interest, if not a higher affect. This pattern, increasing motivation followed by sustained, deepening motivation holds for most content areas studied in formal education. Science however, does not hold this pattern generally.

    Young students report high early interest in science that tends to decline beginning in adolescence (usually at the transition to middle school). This has been attributed to lack of support for meaningful engagement with science. Young children are experiencing situational interest in science early on, but disengaging when confronted with science as typically taught in secondary school (worksheets, rote memorization, lack of context) [19].

    We know this disengagement is pronounced among women and minorities. Research has shown that girls have fewer opportunities to manipulate equipment [20, 21], are subject to stereotypes that place femininity in opposition to science identities [22, 23], experience a lack of peers and role models [24], have fewer opportunities to develop interest, are not recognized for their achievements [25], and are encouraged to adopt fixed-mindsets toward math and science [26]. The cumulative effect of these differences between girls and boys experiences leads to fewer opportunities to develop strong motivation for STEM education and careers.

    The logic model below provides a visual representation of how a program designed to increase motivation for STEM can operationalize these fundamental theories into concert guidelines for action. The leftmost column lists the key motivational theories and components of those theories. Column two details support elements and the arrows indicate which elements relate to which theories. As you can see, there is a great deal of overlap between motivational theories. The predicted result is that participation in a program employing these elements will result in increased motivation for and persistence in STEM.

    Logic Model for the SPICE Program

    Table 1 below, details these elements and provides examples of instructor behaviors that will support motivation development.

    Program Elements

    Table 1 GSP Model: Operationalized Elements of Identity and Self-Efficacy Supports

    GSP Program Components


    Relevant Theory Elements


    GSP Practices

    Scientific Garb, Tools, and Language


    Personal Identity Practice (Id)


    Language of science is introduced using both common and scientific terminology in tandem. Tools of science are conceptualized for use rather than sophistication (high technology) to incorporate everyday items used in scientific process, thereby broadening access to science. Girls use garb and tools associated with science (lab coats, goggles, gloves).

    Peer Learning


    Vicarious Learning (SE)

    Social Identity (Id)

    Peer Affect (In)


    Activites provide opportunity for girls to learn from and observe peers engaged in science. Instructors encourage girls to share strategies, successes, and failures by taking on expert scientist roles.

    Hands-on Activities


    Mastery Experiences (SE)

    Identity Role Practice(Id)

    Skill Building (In)

    Ability Belief (EV)


    No less than 80% of the activity is hands on. Instructors monitor groups to ensure that all girls have an opportunity to manipulate equipment and contribute ideas to the activity through prompts and questions. Lecture and instruction time are kept to a minimum.

    Relatable Near-Peer Role Models


    Thinkability (Id)

    Social Persuasion (SE)

    Teacher Affect (In)

    Cost reduction (EV)


    Instructors are diverse, relatable, and engaging. Instructors talk about their own interest and practice in science, while presenting themselves both as individuals with hobbies and interests outside of science.

    Contextualizing Failure


    Mastery Experiences(SE)

    Confidence (Id)

    Exploration (In)

    Cost reduction/Ability (EV)


    Instructors help move girls away from searching for the “right” answer to understanding scientific inquiry as exploration. Present hypotheses as guide for inquiry and comparison rather than answer. Present failure to learn vs failure to get “correct” answer.

    Engagement over Achievement


    Ego Identity (Id)

    Exploration/Skill build (In)


    Feedback is processed-based rather than accomplishment-based. Girls are encouraged to persist when frustrated. Instructors highlight incremental progress.

    Freedom to Explore Activities


    Exploration (In)

    Utility (EV)


    Girls are provided opportunities to test new hypotheses and to develop creative approaches based on personal experience.

    Trusted to Carry Out Complex Activities


    Social Pers/Mastery (SE)

    Skill building (In)

    Ability Belief (EV)


    Participants taught how to safely engage with scientific tools and permitted to carry out activities with minimal instructor intervention including use of chemicals and fire.

    Inquiry & Exploration


    Exploration (In)

    Utility (EV)


    Interest and utility development encouraged through opportunities to ask questions, and propose new experiments based on interest and values.


    1.         Corbett, C. and C. Hill, Solving the equations: The variables for women's success in engineering and computing. 2015, AAUW: Washington, DC. p. 159.

    2.         Todd, B., Little Scientists: Identity, Self-Efficacy, and Attitudes Toward Science in a Girls' Science Camp, in Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership. 2015, University of Oregon: Eugene, OR. p. 313.

    3.         Blickenstaff, J.C., Women and science careers: Leaky pipeline or gender filter? Gender and Education, 2005. 17(4): p. 369-386.

    4.         Brotman, J.S. and F.M. Moore, Girls and science: A review of four themes in the science education literature. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 2008. 45(9): p. 971-1002.

    5.         Bell, P., et al., Learning science in informal environments. 2009, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

    6.         Linnenbrink-Garcia, L. and E. Patall, Motivation, in Handbook of Educational Psychology, L. Corno and E. Anderman, Editors. 2016, Routledge: New York, NY. p. 91-103.

    7.         Erikson, E., Identity, youth and crisis. 1968, Oxford: W.W. Norton & Company. 336.

    8.         Côté, J.E. and C.G. Levine, Identity, Formation, Agency, and Culture: A Social Psychological Synthesis [2002, Mahwah, N.J.: Psychology Press.

    9.         Goffman, E., The presentation of self in everyday life 1959, New York, NY: Anchor.

    10.       Archer, L., et al., “Balancing acts”: Elementary school girls’ negotiations of femininity, achievement, and science. Science Education, 2012. 80(1): p. 967-989.

    11.       Jones, B.D., C. Ruff, and J.W. Osborne, Fostering students identification with mathematics and science, in The Cupola, K.A. Renninger, M. Nieswandt, and S. Hidi, Editors. 2015, American Educational Research Association: Washington, DC. p. 331-352.

    12.       Bandura, A., Self-efficacy: The exercise of control, ed. S.F. Brennan and C. Hastings. 1997, New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company.

    13.       Zeldin, A.L. and F. Pajares, Against the odds: Self-efficacy beliefs of women in mathematical, scientific, and technological careers. American Educational Research Journal, 2000. 37(1): p. 215.

    14.       Betz, N.E. and G. Hackett, The relationship of career-related self-efficacy expectations to perceived career options in college women and men. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 1981. 28(5): p. 399-410.

    15.       Eccles, J., Gender roles and women's achievement-related decisions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 1987. 11(2): p. 135-172.

    16.       Eccles, J. and A. Wigfield, Motivational beliefs, values, and goals. Annual review of psychology, 2002. 53(1): p. 109-132.

    17.       Leslie, S.-J., et al., Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines. Science, 2015. 347(6219): p. 262-265.

    18.       Hidi, S. and K.A. Renninger, The four-phase model of interest development. Educational psychologist, 2006. 41(2): p. 111-127.

    19.       Anderhag, P., et al., Why do secondary school students lose their interest in science? Or does it never emerge?  A possible and overlooked explanation. Science Education, 2016. 100(5): p. 791-813.

    20.       Fouad, N.A. and A. Guillen, Outcome expectations: Looking to the past and potential future. Journal of Career Assessment, 2006. 14(1): p. 130-142.

    21.       Hazari, Z. and G. Potvin, Views on Female Under-Representation in Physics: Retraining Women or Reinventing Physics? Electronic Journal of Science Education, 2005. 10(1): p. 33.

    22.       Cvencek, D., A. Meltzoff, and A. Greenwald, Math-gender stereotypes in elementary school children. Child Development, 2011. 82(3): p. 766-779.

    23.       Nosek, B., M.R. Banaji, and A.G. Greenwald, Math = male, me = female, therefore math ≠ me. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2002b. 83(1): p. 44-59.

    24.       Riegle-Crumb, C. and C. Moore, The gender gap in high school physics: Considerign the context of local communities. Social Science Quarterly, 2013. 95(1): p. 253-268.

    25.       Malone, K.R. and G. Barabino, Narrations of race in STEM research settings: Identity formation and its discontents. Science Education, 2009. 93(3): p. 485-510.

    26.       Dweck, C.S., Is math a gift? Beliefs that put females at risk, in Why aren't moe women in science? Top researchers debate the evidence, S.J. Ceci and W.M. Williams, Editors. 2006, American Psychological Association: Washington, D.C. p. 47-55.