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Recognition Matters: the Role of Informal Science Education Programs in Developing Girls’ Science Identity


Girls and women remain stubbornly underrepresented in certain science fields. This underrepresentation begins as early as late elementary school as girls begin to (dis)identify with science because they do not see themselves as potential scientists because they cannot recognize themselves as belonging (internal recognition) and/or others do not recognize them as scientists (external recognition). Informal science education (ISE) programs have shown some promise for improving girls’ recognition as it relates to science. However, evidence is mixed on the influence of these programs because there is no commonality in structure or goal for programs that are compared. Hence, we know how specific programs influence girls’ internal and external recognition, but we do not know how this could be successfully replicated. The SciGirls organization has developed a set of research-based gender-equitable strategies that guide their programs and activities to improve girls’ identification with science disciplines. To better understand the efficacy of these strategies on participating girls’ internal and external recognition, we conducted a linear regression to compare pre- to post- external and internal recognition responses. The SciGirls programs we investigated improved girls perceived external recognition; however, their own internal views of themselves as science people did not change significantly. The findings support the use of the SciGirls Strategies for building external recognition for girls, which is an important piece of science identity development.

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Fig. 1


  1. The authors use capital letters when referring to the survey categories and lower case when referring to general science identity, or recognition concepts.


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This work was supported by the National Science Foundation Division of Research on Learning grant: DRL-1612605. A portion of this work was performed at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, which is supported by the National Science Foundation Division of Materials Research Cooperative Agreement No. DMR-1644779 and the state of Florida.

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Correspondence to Roxanne Hughes.

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Roberts, K., Hughes, R. Recognition Matters: the Role of Informal Science Education Programs in Developing Girls’ Science Identity. Journal for STEM Educ Res 5, 214–232 (2022).

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  • Science identity
  • Informal science education
  • Girls
  • SciGirls