Potential of a Values Affirmation Intervention for Marginalized Gender Students' Belonging and Recognition

Heather Lee Perkins, Allison Godwin, Edward J. Berger, Justin Charles Major

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


This research paper investigates the effects of a values affirmation intervention on first-year students' of marginalized genders (which includes ciswomen, trans, and non-binary/third gender students) sense of belonging and identity in engineering. In this work, we examine marginalized genders because, while each of these groups has different experiences in engineering, they are also commonly impacted by the history of engineering as hyper masculine and heteronormative. Values affirmation interventions are short classroom activities designed to affirm important aspects of students' identities and thus help them cope with aversive experiences and resist negative messages (either internalized or environmental; McQueen & Klein, 2006). Values affirmations have been previously used in STEM settings to help address stereotype threat among women students (Cetinkaya, Hermann, & Kisbu-Sakarya, 2020), threats to science identity among Latinx students (Hernandez et al., 2017), and mathematics and socialization outcomes among STEM students (Peters et al., 2017; Turetsky et al., 2020). Most relevant to this study, values affirmations have been used to decrease performance gap between men and women studying engineering (Walton et al., 2015). However, values affirmation interventions are still new to engineering, and their specific effects on engineering identity and belonging are still unknown. In this paper, we document preliminary results from an experiment testing the effects of a values affirmation during the first few weeks of a first-year, first-semester engineering course. A total of 199 participants were randomly assigned to three conditions (control, challenges, and values). Before and after completing the intervention activity, participants completed measures of their belonging, engineering identity, future time perspective, and test anxiety. They also completed a comprehensive demographics section that asked about their gender identity. Two repeated-measures ANOVAs were used to test for pre/post differences in engineering identity recognition and engineering belonging across intervention groups (control, challenges, or values) and gender identity (cismen or any marginalized gender). There was a significant gender differences in recognition (p = .015), with women and non-binary students reporting lower recognition than cismen. Recognition scores increased over time for all participants (p < .001) but this improvement was not impacted by the intervention (p = .866). There was also a significant main effect of gender on belonging (p < .001), with cismen reporting higher belonging, and a significant interaction of gender and time (p = .068), in which students with marginalized genders reported improved belonging at post-test that was still significantly lower than their cismen peers. Participation in the intervention did not significantly impact belonging for students (p = .278). Although preliminary, these findings suggest that the intervention may not benefit this population as strongly as anticipated, although future work with a larger sample and additional longitudinal data points may yet find an effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Aug 23 2022
Externally publishedYes
Event129th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Excellence Through Diversity, ASEE 2022 - Minneapolis, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2022Jun 29 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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