Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy





First Advisor

Christa D. Jackson


Children ages five to eight are in a pivotal period for building conceptual understandings of their identities, especially in relation to gender (Glenn, 1999). Thus, the early elementary is a prime time to influence children’s STEM identities. Children’s sense of belonging, self-efficacy, and interest contribute to their learning of STEM content (Bell, Lewenstein, Shouse, & Feder, 2009). Developing a positive STEM identity has long-term implications for females entering STEM fields.

I used the Figured Worlds framework (Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, and Cain, 1998) to conceptualize STEM identity development and study the phenomenon in young females. In particular, I investigated two cases of White females, which were defined by participation in a female-centered figured world, the STEM Princess (STEMP) case compared to those who did not participate, the Business as Usual (BAU) case. The female-centered figured world of the STEM Princess used the ultra-feminity of popular culture princesses to peak the interest of young girls in STEM and engage them in STEM experiences rich with role models and activities.

This collective case study sought to understand the complex process of STEM identity development (Stake, 1995). Children’s engagement, or lack thereof, in the STEM Princess figured world permitted the investigation of the STEM identities children constructed (Merriam, 2009). STEM identity development was influenced by participants’ conceptions of gender, conceptions of STEM and the STEM community, sense of belonging, self-efficacy, and interest in STEM. Other figured worlds such as home and school also influenced participants’ STEM identities. The greatest development in STEM identities occurred with participation in STEM across figured worlds. Continuous exposure to the STEM Princess figured world resulted in the more rapid, dramatic growth in the STEM identities of the STEMP case when compared to the BAU case. Implications to promote STEM identity development in young children, specifically females, are discussed.

Copyright Owner

Ashley Delaney



File Format


File Size

305 pages