USC Rossier Professor Erika Patall secures $3 million grant to study classroom agency

Grant will study effectiveness of promoting student agency to bolster diversity in STEM classes.

By USC Rossier Published on

USC Rossier School of Education announced that Erika Patall was awarded a $3,263,404 grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how supporting students’ thoughts and behavior in the classroom could strengthen their interest in science courses, as well as instructors’ practices and classroom climate. This work will build upon Patall’s existing research into student agency and self-advocacy.

Black, Latino/Latina, Native American and Pacific Islander students remain underrepresented in science majors and research careers. This is partially due to many science courses and careers not aligning with these students’ culture, identifies and values. Patall’s previous work suggests that emphasizing and encouraging agentic engagement—that is, students’ proactive contributions toward what goes on in the classroom—supports student autonomy and improves learning outcomes.

The research that Patall and others will conduct through this NIH grant will study whether targeted intervention to promote student agency and engagement in the classroom can lead to sustained success in science courses from students that are traditionally underrepresented in these fields.

“Engaging with complex content in classroom environment that is incongruent with one’s identity and values is discouraging and challenging. I became interested in the idea of agentic engagement because it can help shape students’ experience in the classroom and encourage instructors to foster a learning environment that is equitable and supportive to all students. This grant will help us study the benefits of providing training and intervention to support student agency and autonomy and track the effects this intervention will have on students’ endurance in STEM education. I look forward to continuing this work with an incredible team of researchers,” said Erika Patall.

Other researchers involved in this grant include:

Stephen Aguilar (USC Rossier School of Education)
Christa Bancroft (Biological Sciences, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science)
Carlton Fong (Texas State University)
Kristy Daniel (Texas State University)
Germine Awad (University of Michigan)
Kevin Cokley (University of Michigan)
Timothy McKay (University of Michigan)
Keenan Pituch (Arizona State University)

An overview of Erika Patall’s earlier research on this topic is available here

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