June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
24.443.1 - 24.443.18
Does Teaching Matter? Factors that Influence High School Students’ Decisions Whether to Pursue College STEM MajorsThis paper summarizes a three-year evaluation of a university-based Research Experience forTeachers (RET) program that explored a core assumption underlying RET programs nationwide;namely, that exposing K-12 teachers to enriching, STEM-related, professional developmentexperiences results in more K-12 students pursuing STEM majors and careers. While the belief iswidely held, scant evidence exists testing this assumption. Nor is it clear, if the assumption istrue, what the means are by which teachers’ summer research experiences translate intoincreased student interest and participation in STEM.The evaluation included results from a Teacher Survey and a Student Survey. Results from anonline survey to 210 K-12 teachers participating in professional development summer programsacross two years showed that teachers perceive that student factors (e.g., natural aptitude,family influence, scores on standardized tests) influence students’ decisions to study STEMsignificantly more than do teacher factors related to instruction and advising.An online survey was administered to high school students from mid-March through May,2012, distributed through various teacher networks nationwide. The Student Survey iscomprised of 8 scales reflecting factors that influence students’ choice of a college major,including Middle (MSI) and High School (HSI) Instructional Strategies; Students’ PerceivedAptitude for, Motivation for, and Attitudes towards the Major; Influences of Family andFriends; Concerns About Studying a Particular Major; and Out-of-School Participation inActivities Related to the Major. Scales were comprised of 3-8 items each, with reliabilities thatranged from Cronbach =.60 to =.92. A total of 519 high school seniors responded whoreported planning to attend college within a year and who identified an intended major.Logistic regression was used to explore effects of the eight factors on students’ decisions.First, we looked for factors that influence students’ intentions to study STEM vs. non-STEMmajors. High School Instruction (HSI) involving hands on activities or projects and We readbooks, watched movies, or studied current events related to my major were found to besignificant influencers of students choosing STEM. Students choosing STEM also expressedConcerns about free time in college significantly more than those pursuing non-STEM majors.Second, we explored differences between those intending to study engineering and thoseconsidering other (non-engineering) STM majors. HSI, Middle School Instruction (MSI), andConcerns (p<.01.) According to these results, students report that instruction influences their choice of majormore than teachers believe it does. These studies provide evidence that teacher and studentengagement in authentic STEM experiences influences students’ choices regarding whether tostudy STEM in college. The study provides potentially exciting, practical implications for K-12and higher education STEM education.
Lichtenstein, G., & Tombari, M. L., & Sheppard, S. D., & Storm, K. (2014, June), Does Teaching Matter? Factors that Influence High School Students’ Decisions on Whether to Pursue College STEM Majors Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/20334
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