Research Library

A decrease in student motivation in the middle grades mathematics classroom is cause for concern, especially when trying to make the mathematics environment more inclusive for typically marginalized students. One way to increase student motivation and make classrooms more inclusive is by introducing students to role models - someone who is not only successful, but inspirational, relatable, and can also be emulated. In this synthesis, we conducted a search of the literature which resulted in 48 articles related to the implementation of role models in STEM. Findings from our review demonstrate that there are at least four dimensions of role model interventions that can influence student motivation: 1) specific features of the role model (e.g., competence) that can influence students’ perceptions of themselves, 2) students’ perceived similarity to the role model, 3) students’ perceptions of how attainable the role model’s success is, and 4) features of the students themselves (e.g., degree of identification with mathematics). We also found that there are important nuances within these dimensions that could lead to unintended decreases in motivation among marginalized students. We conclude by highlighting recommendations for the implementation of role models into the mathematics classroom.