STEM Education Doctoral Students Karisma Morton and Anita Patrick have been named the 2017 Addison Lee Award Winners by UT Austin’s Center for STEM Education. The award provides financial assistance for doctoral students to present their research at national education research conferences. Both Ms. Morton and Ms. Patrick will present research at American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) 2017 Annual Meeting, held in San Antonio, TX.

Karisma MortonMs. Morton’s research investigates the mechanisms through which inequality in STEM education is created and reduced. Specifically, Ms. Morton’s research examines STEM inequality by gender and race/ethnicity, as well as the intersection between them as different racial/ethnic and gender subgroups (e.g., African American males) may have unique educational experiences that cannot be identified by looking at race/ethnicity and gender separately. Ms. Morton will be presenting a paper, co-authored with Catherine Riegle-Crumb and Jenny Buontempo, titled The Effects of Perceptions of Teacher Equity on Students’ Outcomes in Mathematics. This study investigated how students’ perceptions s of the extent to which their 9th grade math teachers are equitable impacts their math test scores and their views about math utility in the 11th grade. According to Ms. Morton, the study finds “teacher equity is a positive predictor of an increase in math test scores and perceptions of math utility.” Ms. Morton continued that “findings are most prominent among Black and Hispanic boys indicating that that teacher equity may have the greatest impact on minority males.” In other words, when students perceive their math teacher as teaching equitably, they perform better on math tests and more strongly report that knowing math is useful.

Anita PatrickMs. Patrick’s research focuses on engineering education, equity and peer mentorship programs. More specifically, she is interested in the development of peer support networks that can help underrepresented minorities pursue their goals in relation to STEM, specifically engineering. Ms. Patrick will present a study, titled Examining the Spatial Skills of High School Engineering Students: Considering the Role of Both In-School and Out-of-School Experiences, along with co-authors Catherine Riegle-Crumb, Menglu Peng, and Jenny Buontempo at the AERA meeting. The study, according to Ms. Patrick, examines “how in-school experiences, such as course taking, and out-of-school experiences, such as playing with Legos at early ages, contribute to the increase in spatial visualization skills among high school engineering students. Additionally, our study considers how gender differences in such skills may (or may not) be explained by both types of experiences.” Spatial visualization—or the ability to mentally visualize and manipulate 3-dimensional objects– is often regarded as an important skill for those who aspire to a career in an engineering field.

Both Ms. Morton and Ms. Patrick are excited for the opportunity to attend the AERA annual meeting, where they will not only share their research, but interact with colleagues from across the world. Ms. Morton mentioned that she is looking forward to “gaining useful feedback from others in the research community” so that she can continue to improve her research.

Ms. Morton and Ms. Patrick each conducted their research under the direction of their advisor, Catherine Riegle-Crumb.