Discourses that Inform the Chilly Climate in Math and Physics
The purpose of this study was to uncover and describe the institutional classroom practices of STEM education at a Midwest research university (MRU). Using the framework of feminist standpoint theory, this study explored the everyday experiences of undergraduate women in math and physics to provide a unique perspective on the STEM education teaching and learning environment. In analysis of student interviews, faculty interviews, classroom observations, and instructional documents, we found that the difficult and intimidating aspects of the teaching and learning environment that created challenges for women participants were guided by STEM discourses of individualism, competition, and difficulty. These findings indicate that recent efforts to reduce the “chilly” climate have been unsuccessful because the discourses that motivate the chilly climate have not changed. Recommendations include revising the STEM institution to one that is inclusive for non-man students by identifying and revising the teaching and learning practices motivated by the discourses of competition, individualism, and difficulty.