Evaluating how exposure to scientific role models and work-based microbadging influences STEM career mindsets in underrepresented groups

Published: 6 October 2022| Version 2 | DOI: 10.17632/bxvms662px.2


Purpose: Underrepresentation of female students and specific racial/ethnic groups persists in STEM despite decades of intervention. Evidence suggests there remains a need to encourage interest in STEM fields at the middle school level. Adolescent career aspirations are influenced by exposure to role models and mindsets, such as a sense of perceived personal capacity or belonging. The purpose of this study was to measure how exposure to role models and work-based microbadging affects students' mindsets related to pursuit of STEM careers. Methods: Middle school students rated their intent to pursue a STEM career before and after completing a series of Quest-Challenge pairs featuring role models, including a biomedical engineer, in the Couragion application, as well as their confidence, motivation, and enjoyment through in-app surveys. Data from students in well-represented and underrepresented STEM demographics were compared. Results: Intent to pursue a STEM career increased after Couragion app intervention. This metric was significantly lower for students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups compared to students from well-represented racial/ethnic groups at registration but increased so that no differences were observed between these demographics after the Couragion intervention. Students reported increased confidence, motivation, and enjoyment after interacting with the app. Conclusions: This study showed increased intent to pursue a STEM career, confidence, motivation, and enjoyment in middle school students. The Couragion app role model intervention had a positive impact on metrics that inform students’ future academic and professional decisions. Widely implementing this type of intervention during middle school could help narrow the representation gap in STEM fields.



University of Colorado Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus


Biomedical Engineering, Education, Middle School, Outreach