Carolyn defending her project on zoom before her committee.
Carolyn defending her project on zoom before her committee.

Congratulations to Carolynn Bructo ’21 for the successful defense of her Honors in the Major Project! Her project was titled  “STEM Students’ Perceptions of Changes in Motivation and Identity During a Global Pandemic: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective”. Her supervisor, Dr. Danielle Findley-Van Nostrand was joined by committee members, Dr. Darcey Powell and Dr. Matthew Fleenor to oversee her defense.

Project Abstract:

Student persistence in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) particularly deserves close attention given the alarming attrition rates from such programs. Education and academic achievement are vital pathways to personal and professional success, and the importance of promoting STEM students’ success to enter this field is arguably more evident yet challenging amid a global pandemic. In this study, we aimed to use self-determination theory (SDT), an established theoretical framework in educational psychology that states that individuals’ internal motivation strongly corresponds with the satisfaction of three specific psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness), to understand better the perceptions of emerging adults’ satisfaction of these needs during an ongoing global pandemic, and how these needs along with science identity relate to intrinsic motivation, achievement, and intention to persist in STEM. We examined STEM students’ satisfaction levels of both general and domain-specific needs using an online survey (N = 60). As hypothesized, students perceived their domain-specific needs of competence, autonomy, and relatedness satisfaction to decrease from pre-pandemic to currently. There was mixed support for other hypotheses. Perceived satisfaction in autonomy, across all measures, was significantly positively related to intrinsic motivation. Students’ perceived satisfaction of competence, autonomy, and relatedness in basic and domain-specific measures were significantly associated with amotivation. Science identity was the most significant predictor of intention to leave STEM. Finally, academic achievement was negatively related to perceived autonomy satisfaction. We hope the results from this study can help us better understand how to promote the success of these students.

Bructo’21 with her Honors in the Major t-shirt.

Congratulations again to Carolynn Bructo on a successful defense and we look forward to seeing all you accomplish in the future!




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