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Title:An examination of gendered discourse in the discussion forums of online STEM courses
Author(s):Keyser, Genevieve M.
Director of Research:Perry, Michelle
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Perry, Michelle
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Anderson, Carolyn J.; Bhat, Suma; Mercier, Emma
Department / Program:Educational Psychology
Discipline:Educational Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):gendered discourse, online learning, LIWC, discussion forums, STEM, text analysis
Abstract:Women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, a problem that has roots in their disproportional enrollment and retention in STEM courses at the collegiate level. Increasingly, introductory courses across the STEM disciplines are offered online. In this project, I focus on one potential gatekeeper to women’s online success: discussion forums. Although many scholars agree that discussion forums are important components of online courses because of the collaboration and community they foster, there are gaps in our understanding of the mechanisms behind how discussion forums actually do that. One potential mechanism is language; studying the language of discussion forums can help us gain insight into students’ state of mind and propensity to form a community. By honing in on specific features of the discussion forums that have the potential to influence students’ interactions with one other (i.e., language), I can begin to develop concrete interventions to help students collaborate more effectively, develop community, and ultimately succeed in the course. The first study of this dissertation describes the state of gendered language use in two online STEM courses. The second paper explores how that language interacts with one way of structuring a discussion forum to predict students’ final grades. That structure consisted of giving students the option to post a solution to a homework problem, ask a question, or answer someone’s question. The results reveal that women and men did not differ in their language use along traditionally gendered lines, which is very promising for women in online courses; this means that it is possible that they can feel more comfortable because the language they use does not overtly mark them as a female, and therefore may subvert the typical result of the negative outcomes associated with that marker. Additionally, although not confined to one’s gender, elements of gendered discourse permeated the discussion forums. Gendered language was uniquely used among posting types and also was relevant to students’ final grades. Being a male, posting solutions, answering others’ questions, having larger word counts, as well as using more numbers and analytic language were all related to earning higher final grades.
Issue Date:2018-11-26
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Genevieve Keyser
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-02-07
Date Deposited:2018-12

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