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In this research-based paper, we discuss the development of a measure of Rice University students’ STEM study strategies and then explore the measure’s correlation with several important psychological outcomes in a sample of underprepared first-year STEM students (n=94). STEM attrition remains a pressing concern nationally, particularly for students who took less rigorous STEM courses in high school, a population that disproportionally comprises underrepresented minorities. The authors developed an 11-item measure of STEM-specific study strategies, termed the STEM Study Strategies Questionnaire. We explored STEM-specific identity, self-efficacy, and career aspirations, as well as perceived utility of attaining a STEM degree, using a model based on Eccles and Wigfield’s (2002) expectancy-value framework of achievement. An exploratory factor analysis found a four-factor solution to the newly developed scale: Group Work in STEM, Active STEM Learning, Interactions with STEM Professors, and STEM Exam Familiarity. The authors found significant moderate to strong correlations among all psychological variables, as well as with the Group Work and STEM Exam Familiarity factors. Next steps for this research are to develop further measure items to capture each of the four factors and to conduct confirmatory analyses on different samples of STEM students, both those who are relatively underprepared and appropriatelymore »
Measures of subject-related role identities in physics and math have been developed from research on the underlying constructs of identity in science education. The items for these measures capture three constructs of identity: students’ interest in the subject, students’ feeling of recognition by others, and students’ beliefs about their performance/competence in the subject area. In prior studies with late secondary and early post-secondary students, participants did not distinguish between performance beliefs (e.g., believing that they can do well in a particular subject) and competence beliefs (e.g., believing that they can understand a particular subject); therefore, performance/competence beliefs are measured as a single construct. These validated measures have been successful in predicting STEM career choices including physics, math, and engineering. Based on these measures of identity, literature on engineering identity, and my prior work on understanding engineering choice and belongingness through students’ science and math identities at the transition from high school to college, I developed a set of new engineering identity measures that capture and overall identification as an engineer, future engineering career identification, and students’ engineering-related interest, recognition, and performance/competence beliefs. I conducted a pilot survey of 371 first-year engineering students at three institutions within the U.S. during themore »
The Impact of Participating in College-Run STEM Clubs and Programs on Students’ STEM Career Aspirations
The United States continues to invest considerable resources into developing the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent. Efforts to shore up interest in pursuing STEM careers span decades and have increasingly focused on boosting interest among diverse student populations. Policymakers have called for engaging students in a greater STEM ecology of support that extends beyond the traditional classroom environment to increase student STEM career interest. Yet, few robust studies exist exploring the efficacy of many programmatic efforts and initiatives outside the regular curriculum intended to foster STEM interest. To maximize STEM education investments, promote wise policies, and help achieve the aim of creating STEM learning ecosystems that benefit diverse student populations and meet the nation’s STEM goals, it is crucial to examine the effectiveness of these kinds of STEM education initiatives in promoting STEM career aspirations.
The purpose of this quasi-experimental study was to examine the impact of one popular, yet understudied, STEM education initiative on students’ STEM career aspirations: participation in a university- or college-run STEM club or program activity (CPA) during high school. Specifically, we studied whether participation in a college-run STEM CPA at a postsecondary institution during high school was related to college-goingmore »
We conducted a quasi-experimental investigation to explore the impact of participation in university- or college-run STEM CPAs on college-going students’ STEM career aspirations. We administered a retrospective cohort survey to students at 27 colleges and universities nationwide resulting in a sample of 15,847 respondents. An inverse probability of treatment weighted logistic regression model with a robust set of controls was computed to estimate the odds of expressing STEM career aspirations among those who participated in college-run STEM CPAs compared with the odds expressed among students who did not participate. Our weighting accounted for self-selection effects.
Quasi-experimental modeling results indicated that participation in university- or college-run STEM CPAs had a significant impact on the odds that college-going students would express STEM career aspirations relative to students who did not participate. The odds of expressing interest in a STEM career among participants in STEM CPAs were 1.49 times those of the control group. Robustness checks confirmed our results. The result held true for students whether or not they expressed interest in STEM careers prior to participation in STEM CPAs, and it held true across a diverse range of student characteristics (e.g., race, parental education, gender, standardized test scores, and family/school encouragement).
Results suggest that university- and college-run STEM CPAs play an important role in the STEM education ecology, serving the national goal of expanding the pool of college-going students who aspire to STEM careers. Moreover, results showed that participation in university- and college-run STEM CPAs during high school is equally effective across diverse student characteristics. Policymakers, educators, and those charged with making investment decisions in STEM education should seriously consider university- and college-run STEM CPAs as a promising vehicle to promote diverse students’ STEM career aspirations in the broader STEM learning ecosystem and as an important complement to other STEM learning environments.
The current study examines the validity of the RESP diagnostic exam and its predictive validity relative to standardized tests with a sample of students (N = 976) who matriculated into Rice University from 2012 to 2014. The RESP diagnostic exam was related to grades, and we found that the correlation between the RESP diagnostic exam and grades was greater for STEM grades than non-STEM grades. We found that the diagnostic exam accounted for an incremental 9% of variance in STEM grades above SAT performance, but only 1% of incremental variance above SAT in non-STEM grades. Moreover, we found evidence of range restriction for both SAT and RESP diagnostic exam performance for Rice University matriculants, further suggesting the utility of the diagnostic exam is at the lower end of the distribution. In summary, our results suggest that an additional diagnostic exam written by schools to specifically measure STEM preparation for their program can be a useful addition to procedures for selecting students for special experiences such as summer bridge programs.
There is little research or understanding of curricular differences between two- and four-year programs, career development of engineering technology (ET) students, and professional preparation for ET early career professionals . Yet, ET credentials (including certificates, two-, and four-year degrees) represent over half of all engineering credentials awarded in the U.S . ET professionals are important hands-on members of engineering teams who have specialized knowledge of components and engineering systems. This research study focuses on how career orientations affect engineering formation of ET students educated at two-year colleges. The theoretical framework guiding this study is Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT). SCCT is a theory which situates attitudes, interests, and experiences and links self-efficacy beliefs, outcome expectations, and personal goals to educational and career decisions and outcomes . Student knowledge of attitudes toward and motivation to pursue STEM and engineering education can impact academic performance and indicate future career interest and participation in the STEM workforce . This knowledge may be measured through career orientations or career anchors. A career anchor is a combination of self-concept characteristics which includes talents, skills, abilities, motives, needs, attitudes, and values. Career anchors can develop over time and aid in shaping personal and career identity .more »