Examining learning outcomes of integrated STEM education from a career development perspective

Tian LUO

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses

Abstract

Due to the growing demand for workers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), STEM education has been promoted worldwide to spark students’ interest in pursuing STEM qualifications and careers. Students’ perceptions and attitudes towards STEM careers should thus be evaluated as important learning outcomes. And yet, students often hold biased perceptions of some STEM careers, which may deter them from aspiring to them. Thus, the aims of this study are: 1) to examine students’ perceptions of certain STEM careers; and 2) to examine how and to what extent students’ perceptions (including stereotypes) of STEM careers impact their career interest via students’ self-efficacy and outcome expectations. This study adopted a mixed-method approach, using a qualitative survey with content analysis, interviews with thematic analysis, and a quantitative survey with structural equation modelling. To examine 4th to 6th grade students’ perceptions of STEM careers, 564 qualitative surveys (requesting students’ drawings and written descriptions of scientists, engineers and technologists at work) were collected and analyzed using content analysis. To facilitate understanding of how perceptions of STEM careers may impact students’ career interest and goals, 28 individual semi-structured interviews were conducted, and the data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Moreover, the quantitative surveys were developed or translated and validated to measure students’ STEM stereotypes, self-efficacy in STEM activities, STEM outcome expectations and career interest. Afterwards, structural equation modelling (SEM) was performed on the data (n=844) to explore the associations among these four constructs. The results showed that many students tended to relate scientists to lab work, engineers to civil construction, and technologists to technological products, mostly computers. In addition, seven major categories of careers emerged from students’ presentations. According to the interviews, students’ perceptions of the task or goal of STEM careers shape their outcome expectations and the perceived task or requirement of STEM careers navigate students’ self-efficacy, which could contribute to their career interest. The SEM results indicated that STEM stereotypes could negatively predict self-efficacy in STEM activities and outcome expectations, which in turn could predict students’ STEM career interest. These results suggest that students’ perceptions of STEM careers were biased and some of the perceived career categories of scientists, engineers, and technologists were misplaced. The altruistic aspect of outcome expectations for STEM careers is a very important contributor to STEM career goals. Furthermore, some biased perceptions of STEM careers (e.g., engineers as labors in construction) may lead to negative outcome expectations and thus make students lose interest in STEM careers. In addition, STEM stereotypes can have an indirect impact on STEM career interest via both self-efficacy and outcome expectations. The findings of the study provide explanations for why students’ perceptions of STEM careers, including STEM stereotypes, matter in students’ career development and highlight the importance of transforming students’ biased perceptions of STEM careers. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
Supervisors/Advisors
  • SO, Wing Mui, Winnie 蘇詠梅, Supervisor
  • WAN, Zhihong 萬志宏, Supervisor
  • LI, Wai Chin 李偉展, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • STEM education
  • STEM careers
  • Career development
  • Career interest
  • Elementary students
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2020.

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