Selena Qian

Selena Qian at right.
Bass Connections showed me the different ways that research can manifest. Research is not necessarily working in a lab or analyzing vast quantities of data.


Interdepartmental Major in Visual & Media Studies and Computer Science ’21

Project Team

I joined this project because education has always been something that I deeply value. I believe strongly that everyone has the right to learn and the right to decide their own path. This project has aligned with those values and allowed me to explore research in a field that I never expected to. I’m excited to see where this project goes this year and what insights we gain over time.

My team studies learning, specifically how problem-based learning affects self-concept. That is, we want to know whether learning math through iterative problems and group discussion improves math ability more quickly and if it can change what middle school girls think about their math abilities.

We spent the fall learning—learning how to teach, learning and practicing these kinds of problems, learning about the factors that affect what girls think about their math ability (stereotypes and stereotype threat, imposter syndrome, growth vs. fixed mindset, etc.). Giving a name to these factors was eye-opening for me. As we talked about the reasons why the gender gap in STEM exists, I noticed myself identifying personal experiences with each of these reasons. Our discussions showed that we had all experienced some level of every one of these factors, and having a space where we could freely discuss this was empowering. We would later use what we learned and discussed to inform the workshops we ran, as well as the survey we used to measure impact.

Problem-based Learning team workshop.

Then in the spring, I taught a workshop alongside another undergraduate member of our team. I think what I enjoyed most about running workshops was the impact I could see us making. I loved seeing the girls’ faces light up when they understood a solution and their surprise at unexpected answers. Part of our workshops was also devoted to discussing topics related to the gender gap in STEM, and hearing the girls speak about their experiences and sharing mine with them was powerful. Naming the social factors did make a difference and got the girls thinking about the challenges and ways to handle them.

I’m still continuing with the project, and I hope it continues to grow and help to gain insight into STEM education. We’ve pivoted our focus a bit more toward spatial reasoning this year, but the core principles of the study are still the same. We saw the results of the ethnographic study of the workshops as well as the survey results, and while there’s a mixed response, things so far look promising.

Photo: The 2018-19 Bass Connections team; I'm on the right in the gray sweatshirt