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An Exploration of Perceptions of Justice in a Career-Forward Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratory Course


Persistence in academic and career settings is a major issue for students enrolled in science and engineering programs, particularly those who identify as female or as members of certain underrepresented ethnic minorities (URM). This exploratory study determined the degree to which organizational justice has explanatory power in complimenting the Mediation Model of Research Experiences (MMRE) in a career-forward laboratory curriculum context. A career-forward approach to curriculum targets persistence by basing the student experience on the content, context, and practices of the targeted career field in developmentally appropriate ways. Participants were 157 undergraduate students taking General Chemistry Laboratory for Engineering Majors. Confirmatory factor analysis of survey responses indicated an acceptable fit for the established four-factor model of organizational justice (χ2(164, n = 157) = 378.447, p = 0.000, IFI = 0.935, CFI = 0.934, NFI = 0.891 RMSEA = 0.092). Bivariate correlations among variables from the two frameworks show that the experience of URM students is different than that of their non-URM peers. Notably, identity as an engineer was more strongly correlated to aspects of organizational justice, and justice played a role in students’ views on teamwork. This supports a prior hypothesis that the negative relationship between teamwork self-efficacy and commitment to an engineering career for URM participants may be related to issues of marginalization within their groups. Evaluation of a combined MMRE organizational justice model with future studies is merited, especially for contexts involving the use of teamwork and/or student collaboration.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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This material is based upon work supported by the U. S. National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grant No. (1625378). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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Why this Manuscript Should be Published in the Journal for STEM Education Research .

This original research adds to our understanding of the effect of a career-forward laboratory curriculum on long-term career commitment in college-level laboratory courses, particularly for those who identify as female and from underrepresented ethnic minorities. Aside from answering the research questions, this study has broad impact for the type of laboratory interventions that are designed to target this issue. We believe that this topic is an excellent fit for the Journal as it represents interdisciplinary empirical research in a manner that furthers the potential for understanding STEM education as an inclusive and equitable endeavor.

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Payne, C., Crippen, K.J. & Imperial, L. An Exploration of Perceptions of Justice in a Career-Forward Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratory Course. Journal for STEM Educ Res 5, 102–125 (2022).

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  • PBL
  • Chemistry
  • Justice
  • Persistence
  • Undergraduate
  • Engineering