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Abstract

This paper is part of a larger project designed to examine and ameliorate the underrepresentation of female-identified students in the philosophy department at Elon University. The larger project involved a variety of research methods, including statistical analysis of extant registration and grade distribution data from our department as well as the administration of multiple surveys. Here, we provide a description and analysis of one aspect of our research: focus groups. We ran three focus groups of female-identified undergraduate students: one group consisted of students who had taken more than one philosophy class, one consisted of students who had taken only one philosophy class, and one consisted of students who had taken no philosophy classes. After analyzing the results of the focus groups, we find evidence that: (1) one philosophy class alone did not cultivate a growth mindset among female-identified students of philosophy, (2) professors have the potential to ameliorate (or reinforce) students’ (mis)perceptions of philosophy; and (3) students who have not taken philosophy are likely to see their manner of thinking as being at odds with that required by philosophy. We conclude by articulating a series of questions worthy of further study.

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