June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Educational Research and Methods
13.178.1 - 13.178.10
An Examination of the Use of Social Cognitive Career Theory to Explore Factors Influencing the Post Baccalaureate Decisions of High Achieving Black Engineering Students
The literature indicates that the representation of minority science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals is significantly disproportionate to minority representation in the U.S. general population and workforce, thereby impacting the current pool of primarily White male STEM professionals’ ability to meet the rapidly changing demands facing the engineering industry. The need to increase the numbers of science and engineering degrees conferred to ethnic minorities at the baccalaureate level and beyond is evident. This paper shares data from the first phase of a multi method longitudinal study conducted at a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) in fall 2006 and spring 2007 using a sample of 51 high achieving (GPA > 3.0) Black STEM students. The Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) was used as a theoretical framework to provide insight regarding factors influencing the post baccalaureate decisions of high achieving Black STEM students. Survey findings revealed a statistically significant association between STEM discipline and post baccalaureate plans. Qualitative data from a focus group will shed light on factors influencing the aforementioned finding.
The literature indicates that the representation of minority science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals is significantly disproportionate to minority representation in the U.S. general population and workforce, thereby impacting the current pool of primarily White male STEM professionals’ ability to meet the rapidly changing demands facing the engineering industry. Instead, the U.S. must increase the numbers of women and minorities (defined for the purpose of this study as African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans) that earn degrees in STEM fields not just at the baccalaureate level, but at all levels1.
Minorities, particularly African Americans, are showing an increase in enrollment and subsequent degree attainment in science and engineering (S&E)1. Data from 1987 and 2000 show an increase in the percentage of S&E degrees awarded at the baccalaureate level (5.0% to 8.0%), the masters level (2.7% to 4.7%) and the doctoral level (1.6% to 2.8%)2. These numbers can be misleading for two reasons. First, the increase in psychology and social science degree attainment are the bulk of the observed increase in S&E degrees at all levels. Natural sciences, mathematics and engineering show little to no increase. Secondly despite the increase, the actual number of degrees earned is still only a very small percentage of the total U.S. S&E degrees conferred. For example, African Americans in 1996 earned only 674 master’s degrees in engineering as compared to 13,573 earned by Whites. The numbers are similar for the natural sciences and for doctorate degrees awarded3. This disparity is also seen in 2004 data. In 2004, Whites represented 45.9% of science and engineering master’s degrees conferred while underrepresented minorities (i.e. Native Americans, Blacks, and Hispanics) represented 11% of science and engineering master’s degrees conferred4.
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