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Trends in Texas High School Students' Enrollment in STEM Courses for Career and Technical Education (Fundamental)

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Addressing the NGSS: Supporting K12 Teachers in Engineering Pedagogy, Engineering Science, Careers, and Technical Pathways

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Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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So Yoon Yoon Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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So Yoon Yoon, Ph.D., is a post-doctoral research associate at Texas A&M University. She received her Ph.D. and Educational Psychology with specialties in Gifted Education and Research Methods & Measurement from Purdue University. Her work centers on P-16 engineering education research as a psychometrician, program evaluator, and institutional data analyst. As a psychometrician, she revised the PSVT:R (Purdue Spatial Visualization Tests: Visualization of Rotations) for secondary and undergraduate students, developed the TESS (Teaching Engineering Self-efficacy Scale) for K-12 teachers, and rescaled the SASI (Student Attitudinal Success Inventory) for engineering students. As a program evaluator, she evaluated the effects of teacher professional development (TPD) programs on elementary teachers’ attitudes toward engineering and students’ STEM knowledge through a NSF DRK-12 project. As an institutional data analyst, she is investigating engineering students’ diverse pathways to their success.

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Johannes Strobel University of Missouri

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Dr. Johannes Strobel is Full Professor, School of Information Science & Learning Technologies at University of Missouri, where he also directs a maker initiative for the College of Education. He received his M.Ed. and Ph.D. in Information Science & Learning Technologies from the University of Missouri. His research/teaching focuses on engineering as an innovation in pK-12 education, policy of STEM education, how to support teachers and students' academic achievements through engineering, engineering ‘habits of mind' and empathy and care in engineering. He has published more than 140 journal articles and proceedings papers (many with graduate and undergraduate students) and is the inaugural editor for the Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research.

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While the demand for motivated students to enter STEM fields is at its highest, high school seniors’ interest in and readiness for pursuing these careers have been sluggish (ACT, 2006). The largest impact on STEM entrance is reported to be intent to major in STEM, which is directly affected by 12th-grade math achievement and exposure to math and science courses. In the context of Texas, House Bill 5 signifies a major policy shift requiring now entering high school students to choose an endorsement, STEM being one of them and so providing students with earlier exposure to a coherent course sequence. Given the increase in messaging on the value of STEM, we don't know how well the message is acted upon by high school students and as we barely understand students’ choices before the endorsement requirement, we need to set a baseline.

This study aims to explore trends in high school students’ preferences on STEM subjects by exploring students’ course enrollment data in Texas. To do this, we utilized the 6 years data (from 2008 to 2013 school years) from Texas Education Agency (TEA). The data are open to the public and contain students’ enrollment records of all the courses offered in high school (grades 9-12). For our analysis, we identified all STEM-related courses and used the following preexisting groupings: (a) required mathematics and science courses for graduation,(STEM required) (b) selective courses in mathematics and science, (STEM selective) and (c) courses in Texas’ Career and Technical Education (CTE)-STEM standards (from a wide range of offered courses and concentrations).

Guiding research questions were: (1) Over a six-years time-frame, do Texas high school students take increasingly more STEM related courses as measured by STEM selective and CTE-STEM courses) controlling for the effects of natural increase of population?; (2) Analyzing selective STEM and CTE-STEM courses, what trends in student enrollment can characterize students’ interest in STEM?; and (3) To what degree do students’ enrollment choices reflect vocational/workforce or college readiness trends in students’ interest?

The population of the study are grades 9 -12 students in high schools in Texas. The student population is quite diverse with the majority of Hispanic students (44% ~ 49%), followed by White (32% ~ 38%) and Black students (13% ~ 15%). To explore the changes in the students’ enrollment in the STEM-related courses, a proportional ratio, using the enrolled number of students for a course per the total number of the student population, was calculated for each course in STEM required, STEM selective and CTE-STEM courses.

Primary results showed wide variations in the proportion of enrollments on the STEM related courses by types of courses, gender, and race/ethnicity. While most courses showed increased enrollment rates, which indicate a promising prospect for the STEM career pipeline, there were exceptions on a few courses. Results of this study have broader impact and can inform career counselors and university recruitment efforts to tailor their messaging to students’ behavior of course selection.

Yoon, S. Y., & Strobel, J. (2016, June), Trends in Texas High School Students' Enrollment in STEM Courses for Career and Technical Education (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27083

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