Adult Online Learning: The Experience of Skill Building in the GT OMSCS Program

PIs:  Julia Melkers (Arizona State University) and Ruth Kanfer

Project:  Online skill building graduate programs are rapidly gaining popularity among adults seeking to reskill or upskill their competencies in bright prospect fields, such as computer science. The GT OMSCS program has been a leader and innovator in implementing an exclusively online graduate program in computing from an accredited university for a fraction of the cost of traditional, residential programs.  Through the support of the College of Computng, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, our interdisciplinary team has developed a cumulative research stream on the experiences and outcomes of adults in the program, particularly with respect to women and underrepresented groups.

Click here to learn more about the Kanfer lab
Click here to learn more about OMSCS
Click here to learn more about the Melkers lab


Forum: Building an Applied Science to Support Working Learners

A virtual assembly funded by the National Science Foundation took place across four weeks in July 2021. The purpose of the assembly was to build a framework for applied research to promote educational and mobility opportunities for “working learners” – workers without college degrees. The full report can now be viewed here. To view the launch event, click this video.

Personnel Psychology Call for Papers/Special Issue

Date: Monday, September 23, 2019

Personnel Psychology has a call for papers for their special issue, entitled “What’s Age got to do with it? Age and Age-Related Differences in the workplace.” Special Issue Editors are all Work Science Center members: Margaret Beier, Rice University;  Ruth Kanfer, Georgia Institute of Technology;  Dorien Kooij Tilburg University:  Donald Truxillo, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick.

Gender-Focused Studies of Preliminary STEM Program

By: Elizabeth Moraff

A notable opportunity emerged from our efforts to deconstruct research addressing the presence of women in STEM subjects and their ability to persist in these fields. Specifically, our examination focused on studies of women involved in STEM at higher education levels. Our review revealed consistent themes related to experienced gender bias, lack of institutional support and impacts of stereotype threat. The resulting effects are evident in the aggregate of attitude and behavior outcomes. They are also reflected heavily in the dispositional and situational antecedents. While college-educated women make up half of the entire U.S. workforce, they are less than 28% of the total STEM workforce (National Girls Collaborative, 2018). The importance of considering these systemic, structural and institutional factors related to the transition of girls and young women in STEM through primary and secondary schools is apparent.

A number of the studies acknowledged the importance of encouraging early interest and involvement. Developmental research on the education process suggests the back-end value of these endeavors is in individual successes and economic returns (Cannon, Karoly & Kilburn, 2005). The benefits of conducting more studies focused on the interactions between and among STEM educators and female students may expose interventions as necessary for later persistence in STEM studies and careers. Creating policies and other guided mandates affords support at more consequential points in time. In developing these early stage initiatives, there is potential for increased inclusion and influence.
The City of Atlanta provides an opportunity to explore this possibility further. Atlanta Public Schools (APS) adopted a new Charter System operating model as of June 2015. This transition enabled APS with more autonomy, more accountability for student achievement and limited state regulations/controls (APS Signature Programs, 2017). Within this operating model, each cluster of schools functions through the pedagogical lens of a particular signature program. The highlight here, rests in the fact that STEM is one of three signature programs chosen by the community and adopted under the APS Charter System Operating model. Parents, teachers and community members attributed their choice to the projected growth of STEM occupations, earnings of STEM workers versus non-STEM workers and greater achievement of STEM school scholars (APS Signature Programs, 2017).

Providing educators and institutions with keys to dismantle the multitude of disparities reflected in the low numbers of women in STEM careers is essential. Designing a study that assesses the achievements of schools/clusters participating in the STEM signature program, and measuring the achievement of students between schools/clusters in the other two signature programs, may do this. The prospective multi-tiered, mixed method study could establish a link that helps our nation create a more suitable educational foundation. This base can serve as the springboard from which young female scholars can be encouraged to engage, persist and thrive in STEM curiosities and ultimately, STEM occupations.

Career Paths in Stem for African American Women

By: Yendi Neil

Career paths in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are growing in the modern world, but women’s representation within these jobs is not experiencing the same amount of growth. A literature review was conducted on previous studies ranging from the early 2000s to now about women representation in STEM careers. After screening and content coding, 94 studies were deemed eligible. From these studies, common themes within the variables and methodology were determined. One prominent theme discovered in the methodology was the groups represented in the minority focus.

When looking at the methodology, the existing minority focus was coded, and a description was reported of the minority group(s). Overall, there were 28 studies that contained a minority focus with 16 about the African American community and 12 about the Asian American community. A lack of research on the differences between the minority groups (i.e. African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives) was a common theme within these studies. More in-depth studies (i.e. interviews & case studies) focused more on African Americans while other studies gave a more generalized look by reporting the outliers in data or focusing more on surveys to understand minority groups. For example, a book source, Girls and Women in STEM: A Never Ending Story, contained studies conducting interviews and case studies on African American women, who were undergraduate and up (i.e. graduate students & employee), and the obstacles they face. In contrast, Developing the leadership capacity and leader efficacy of college women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields reported any outliers within the data as a representation of a minority focus of the study. The studies in Girls and Women in STEM: A Never Ending Story focused on the African American community because it is currently one of the largest growing populations in colleges but is still underrepresented. Significantly, there was a lack of attention given to racial subgroups in gender research during the mid-1990s. Researching into the experiences of African American women, researchers wanted to capture a snapshot of the struggles and successes faced and apply this snapshot towards other groups.

Furthermore, only two of the minority focus research papers contained some type of intervention that was tested: ADVANCE program and PTS (Noyce Pathway to Science). One study, African American Women in STEM Education: The Cycle of Microaggressions from P-12 Classrooms to Higher Education and Back, contained an African American minority focus and conducted interviews over the impact of PTS over the cycle of microaggressions from undergraduate to employment. The other study, Perceived Levels of Faculty Value, did not specify any one minority group and conducted a study about the climate/environment. Moreover, the current studies focused mostly on obstacles such as racial bias, cultural influences, workplace/college climate, and self-efficacy.

Heading into the future, studies can potentially place more emphasis on understanding what different obstacles are faced and the type of interventions that work for other minority groups with women in STEM. Each minority group faces different obstacles as racial stereotypes drive perception and affect the treatment of each race. A possibility in which each group reacts differently to certain variables and interventions exists and has not been tested thoroughly. Stereotypes can differ from outside and within many minority groups affecting women representation in STEM careers especially the field of study and career commitment.

In Their Own Voices: Workers with Concealable Disabilities

Work Science Center Network members Deborah Rupp and Lisa Finkelstein noticed a gap in the literature around workers with disabilities. While studies had oft examined outcomes of people with stigmatized identities, including those with disabilities, they did not find much research featuring the voices of workers with disabilities. To remedy this gap, and to dig deeper into the research on stigmatized identities, they conducted semi-structured interviews with twenty-eight workers who have a disability.

In particular, Finkelstein, Rupp, and their team wanted to hear about the experiences of workers with concealable disabilities. When hearing the word “disability,” many visible impairments, such as blindness, congenital disorders and such may spring to mind, but what about HIV? What about chronic back pain? The research team noted that these types of disabilities afford an individual the opportunity, the choice, to conceal them if they so desire. Prior research indicates that if a person can hide a stigmatized identity, it’s likely that they will do so. Ironically, the agency this choice provides does not correlate with higher well-being. The present study wanted to dig into the reasons that affect whether or not a person with a concealable disability would do so, and why. In fact, literature suggests that the deleterious effects on well-being may even intensify with a concealable identity.

In their interviews, they found two core factors that influenced stigmatized identity management and five themes that emerged from the interviews. Participants talked about how salient their concealable disabilities were as a major factor – or rather, how much they thought or were concerned about their disability. The second core factor was the anticipated stigma they would experience if they revealed their disability. Participants talked about worrying those others would view them as less competent, as seeking attention, and so forth. Even though the participants who had shared about their disability hadn’t necessarily experienced more discrimination, they communicated that the anticipated stigma had greater impact on their decisions of whether or not to diclose.

The researchers closed by suggesting numerous workplace and national policies that could help to protect workers who have concealable disabilities. Similarly, they urged further study on other factors that could impact people managing stigmatized identity. They presented intersectionality, or studying how people navigate multiple stigmatized identities simultaneously, of special interest.

Santuzzi, A.M., Keating, R. T., Martinez, J. J., Finkelstein, L. M., Rupp, D. E., & Strah, N. (2019). Identity Management Strategies for Workers with Concealable Disabilities: Antecedents and Consequences. Journal of Social Issues 0 (0), pp. 1-34. doi: 10.1111/josi.12320

Network Research Highlight: Assessment Center Differences – What’s the Cause?

Work Science Center Network member, Deborah Rupp, teamed up with other scientists to probe the causes of group-level differences in the way people were rated during the Assessment Center Method. The Assessment Center has been long viewed as an objective means of measuring performance. It involves standardized evaluation of behavior based on job-related simulations, interviews, and psychological tests. The job simulations measure candidates’ critical competencies for jobs.

In an age where we recognize internalized bias’ pernicious effects, the Assessment Center has long been considered immune. Some research has recently questioned this assertion, noting that demographic differences can impact ratings. Rupp and her team wanted to know why. In the present study, they examined how the assessors’ own demographic characteristics affected the ratings they gave. In particularly, they looked for leniency bias and similar-to-me bias, assuming that assessors would rate people of their same race more favorably, and that men would rate women more favorably overall.

Surprisingly, they found virtually no individual-level effects, and the group-level impact they found was quite small. In sum, based on their sample of professionals from a large metropolitan police department, the Assessment Center method seemed to work. They did not find systematic differences in the way assessors rated candidates based on their own characteristics.

Rupp and the team wondered why. In their considerations for future directions and limitations of their research, they suggest that their study paired assessors and assessees who didn’t know each other. This mutual novelty excluded personal history, knowledge of personality or values, and perhaps enabled greater objectivity. Similarly, in the study setting, the assessors received extensive training and resources to perform the Assessment Center. The researchers verified the process’ integrity from start to finish. Does the same caliber of Assessment Center exist universally? Certainly not! They implore organizations using the Assessment Center Method to safeguard the instrument to preserve its predictive power and overall fairness. But that’s just a hunch. In order to really find out what’s causing group-level discrepancies, scientists need to conduct more studies to examine what’s going on.

Thornton, G.C., Rupp, D.E., Gibbons, A.M., Vanhove, A.J. (2019). Same-gender and same-race bias in assessment center ratings: A rating error approach to understanding subgroup differences. International Journal of Selection and Assessment 27: 54-71. doi: 10.1111/ijsa.12229

How to Use LinkedIn for Hiring

By: Keaton Fletcher

Social Media, specifically LinkedIn, has played an increasingly important role in connecting job seekers with employers and recruiters. In an article recently published in Personnel Psychology, Roulin and Levashina (2019) presented data from two studies exploring how LinkedIn is, and can be, used as a selection tool. As a first step to the studies, the authors surveyed 70 hiring managers in North America. These managers considered LinkedIn as roughly equivalent to résumés with regard to the level of information they provide for assessing personality and predicting performance on the job.

The first study the authors presented included data from 133 senior business students from Canada and the United States. Raters with their MBAs evaluated the LinkedIn profiles of the participants across two years. The raters’ assessment of skills (except conflict management and leadership), personality, cognitive ability, and hiring recommendations were generally consistent with one another. Further, ratings were moderately correlated with one another across the two years, suggesting some level of temporal stability in how LinkedIn profiles display users’ traits. It is also worth noting that across the two-year period, participants tended to increase the length of their profile by nearly 100 words. Raters’ evaluation of participants’ traits only correlated to the participants’ self-reported traits for leadership, planning, communication, extraversion, and cognitive ability. Less visible traits and skills (e.g., problem solving, openness to experience) were not correlated. Of note, there was a positive, albeit weak, correlation between the hiring recommendation made by the raters at Time 1 and whether the participant reported employment in their field, or a promotion at Time 2. When the authors examined ratings for adverse impact, there were no significant differences in the ratings made for men versus women or white versus non-white users.

In the second study, 24 MBA students rated the LinkedIn profiles of the participants from Study 1. The students were asked to use a holistic/global approach for half of the profiles they rated and an itemized approach (similar to the rating system from Study 1) for the other half of the profiles. Using an itemized approach increased the likelihood that different raters made the same recommendation for hiring compared to the global approach. Looking at adverse impact, the authors found no difference in male versus female profiles using the global approach but did find that White profiles were given higher assessments than non-White profiles. Using the itemized approach, however, results showed no difference between White and non-White profiles, and showed higher ratings for women versus men.

Overall, these studies suggest that LinkedIn may be a viable way to examine job seekers’ skills and abilities, particularly those that are more visible. Further, using an itemized approach to evaluating LinkedIn profiles, rather than a more holistic approach, can help ensure a reduced level of adverse impact, thereby increasing the diversity of candidates that are considered at the next step in the application process.

WSC Network Member, Phillip Ackerman, Receives 2019 Julius E. Uhlaner Award

The Knowledge and Skill Lab, led by School of Psychology Professor, and Work Science Center Network Member, Phillip Ackerman, is the recipient of the 2019 Julius E. Uhlaner Award. The award recognizes outstanding contributions in research on military selection and recruitment.

The American Psychological Association (APA) Division 19 (Society for Military Psychology) selected Ackerman and his team of Navy and Air Force psychologists for their development of selection battery and classification tools for UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) personnel.

The award will be given during the Society for Military Psychology’s business meeting at the 2019 APA convention in Chicago, on Aug. 8-11, 2019.

About the Award

The award is named after the late Julius “Jay” E. Uhlaner. The former Army Research Institute (ARI) technician and chief psychologist of the U.S. Army left a lasting legacy through his leadership and research achievements in applying psychology to military problems.

In 1976, Uhlaner received the Presidential Award for Management Improvement from President Gerald R. Ford for his work at ARI. He subsequently received a Lifetime Achievement award from Division 19 (Military Psychology) of the APA in 1995.

The Society for Military Psychology is one of the original 19 charter divisions established by the APA in 1945. It seeks to serve as the premier organization for military psychology. Society members include a growing network of psychologists and other social scientists united by their interests in applying psychological principles to a broad range of issues related to global security, peace, and stability and to improving the lives and well-being of millions of men and women who serve in the armed forces and defense agencies of nations throughout the world.