STEM major choice: high school and collegiate factors

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Education, Health & Human Development


A huge present and future workforce demand exists in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Bolstered by a number of US policies and research that associates STEM majors with pursuing STEM careers, higher education institutions have aimed to support students to major in STEM fields in an effort to meet the needs of the STEM workforce. Despite these postsecondary efforts, the challenge begins in earlier levels of schooling with a shortage of licensed and highly qualified science and math teachers nationwide. Although many studies have examined math and science expectancy values and self-efficacy among high school students to predict their intention to major in STEM major choice, few have investigated both high school and college level variables to understand student STEM major choice declared in their third college year. Thus, this study fills the gap using the most recent STEM-focused national representative survey data -- High School Longitudinal Study 2009 (HSLS:09). Three research questions are: (i) To what extent do high school math and science motivation and self-efficacy, collegiate factors, and personal circumstances promote or hinder students' STEM major choice, controlling for student background characteristics? ; (ii) To what extent do collegiate factors and personal circumstances predict the probability of STEM major choice, controlling for student background characteristics? (iii) What factors predict college STEM GPA? This study employs theories of Situative expectancy value theory and Social cognitive career theory to develop a conceptual framework. Logistic regression was used to analyze the first two questions, and linear regression used for the third question. The first research question found gender, math attainment value, science attainment value, college STEM credits earned, and STEM GPA are predictive of the probability of STEM major choice. In the second research question, among college-period variables, gender, college STEM credits earned, and STEM GPA are predictors of STEM major choice. The third research question found race, social economic status, faculty research participation, career services on campus used, work schedule and academic performance interference, and disability are predictors of the average STEM GPA. Implications for theory, research, and practice are discussed.



Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Education)


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