Relationship of Middle School Student STEM Interest to Career Intent

Rhonda Christensen, Gerald Knezek
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Understanding middle school students’ perceptions regarding STEM dispositions, and the role attitudes play in establishing STEM career aspirations, is imperative to preparing the STEM workforce of the future. Data were gathered from more than 800 middle school students participating in a hands-on, real world application curriculum to examine the relationship of the students’ interest in STEM and their intentions to pursue a career in a STEM field. Among the middle school students who completed surveys for the MSOSW project, 46.6% expressed a desire to pursue a career in STEM at the time of the post test. Regarding alignment of positive interest in STEM with intent to purse a STEM career, middle school students who have stated that they plan to pursue a career in STEM, also show higher dispositions toward STEM and STEM career measures. Gender differences were also examined, resulting in the finding that middle school males generally have greater intent to pursue a career in STEM, and also show more positive interest in STEM areas. However, females appear to more positively react to the project activities presented in this study than males, so over the course of a project year females tend to “catch up.” This is true regarding assessed STEM interest as well as stated intent to pursue a career in STEM. These findings provide additional contributions to the growing base of knowledge about the importance of middle school aspirations for STEM careers.

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