How can STEM disciplines support political engagement? Examining student characteristics and college experiences
Keywords:civic engagement, voting, political attitudes
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educators have a unique opportunity to prepare voters who are knowledgeable about science-related policy issues that inevitably become election issues (Rudolph & Horibe, 2016). A substantial body of higher education literature indicates that college students learn civic values and commit to civic engagement through their curricular and co-curricular experiences (Bowman, 2011; Hurtado et al., 2012). Within STEM education, in particular, we study whether, and to what extent, students’ curricular, co-curricular, and classroom experiences—as well as background characteristics—relate to political engagement. We analyze data from the 2017 Student Experience in the Research University survey, using self-reported measures of voting in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and self-assessed political efficacy for 5,838 STEM students at six research universities. We use regression analyses to examine relationships among curricular, co-curricular, and classroom experiences with STEM undergraduates’ political engagement. Instead of simply examining whether STEM majors are less politically engaged than their non-STEM peers, our analyses and results provide insights about how STEM academic departments and faculty members can support students’ political engagement. We offer implications for education policy and practice for supporting STEM students’ political engagement through undergraduate experiences.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Hyun Kyoung Ro, Frank Fernandez, Inger Bergom
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