Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Claire Hamilton

Second Advisor

Martina Nieswandt

Third Advisor

Elizabeth McEneaney

Fourth Advisor

Nilanjana Dasgupta

Subject Categories

Science and Mathematics Education


While current research shows that the gender gap in science achievement has disappeared (Miller, Blessing, & Schwartz, 2006), girls continue to show declining levels of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) engagement in school. Literature shows that various societal and educational factors impact girls’ STEM motivation disproportionately to boys (Bennett & Hogarth, 2009; Breakwell & Robertson, 2001; Brotman & Moore, 2008; Campbell & Clewell, 1999; Cokadar & Kulce, 2008; Huebner, 2009; Jovanovic & King, 1998; Lee, 1998; Miller, Blessing, & Schwartz, 2006; Osborne, Simon, & Collins, 2003; Solomon, 1997). The onset of this phenomenon occurs in the middle school years (AAUW, 1994; Bennett & Hogarth, 2009; Brotman & Moore, 2008; Galton, Gray, & Ruddock, 2003; Murphy & Whitelegg, 2006; Scantlebury & Baker, 2007; Solomon, 1997) and is compounded throughout high school and beyond by additional barriers, including societal stereotypes and mismatched values between females and the STEM community (Davis, 2001; Davis, 2002; Hill, Corbett, & St. Rose, 2010; NRC, 2007; Solomon, 1997). Ryan and Deci’s Self-Determination Theory (2000a, 2000b) provides a meaningful framework to explore this phenomenon by asserting that the conditions of relatedness, autonomy, and competence must be present for an individual to experience intrinsic levels of motivation. Science classrooms allowing students to work in cooperative groups on tasks that offer a high level of autonomy and an appropriate level of scaffolding could thus provide an optimum scenario for increased motivation. Yet, individuals must also feel that they are legitimate members of these groups (relatedness) in order for the condition to have a positive effect on motivation. According to the Stereotype Inoculation Model (Dasgupta, 2011a), individuals are more likely to show motivation in a particular domain when they can identify with their in-group peers, especially when those peers are also viewed as experts. This model posits that gender majority may provide this condition for girls in small science groups, allowing them to transcend stereotypes that have inhibited their STEM engagement and creating a scenario in which they are better able to view their possible selves as members of that group, thus increasing their levels of motivation within that context.