- Year 2018
- NSF Noyce Award # 1340019
- First Name Michelle
- Last Name Head
- Discipline Chemistry
, David Rosengrant
, and Charlease Kelly-Jackson
Numerous recent reports have indicated the shortage of students entering into STEM majors. As a direct result this has created a shortage of highly qualified educators to teach STEM subjects in school. To further compound this issue, the lack of diversity of the students entering into STEM majors has caused the population of science educators to inadequately mirror the student population. Therefore, to help increase the number of highly qualified science teachers and improve the diversity it is important to understand what influences students career choices, specifically with regards to science teaching.
The goal of this research project was to interview and collect artifacts from high school and undergraduate students who led a week-long summer camp for middle school students. Through this experience it aided in understanding how teaching in a low-stakes and fun setting may influence their decision to pursue a career as a science educator. It also allowed the researchers to understand what other factors influence the students career choices.
Through the Noyce I project at Kennesaw State University, both high school and college undergraduates had an opportunity to engage in leading a middle school week-long summer camp. This provide an opportunity to gain teaching experience in a low stakes and fun environment. It also allowed, the project staff to conduct research to better understand the participants career choices. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with each cohort or students. The interviews were analyzed using the Social Cognitive Career Theory. This theoretical framework allowed for the development of a set of codes that were used to deductively code each interview. Once the interviews were coded, the frequency that each factor was mentioned was analyzed to determine the similarities and difference the exist among the students based on various demographics.
The results of this study can be described with respect to three broad factors that influence career choice. These include career awareness, external factors, and internal factors. Participants cited each nearly equally as influencing their career choice.
When considering the whole population of students who participated in this teaching experience two major factors emerged from their interviews as primary contributors to career choice. 61% of the participants identifying their parents as a major influence over their career choice. This factor, was the same no matter what gender or ethnicity the student was. Another major factor the influences career choice was the student’s perceived ability to work with students, or their self-efficacy. With closer analysis, it was revealed among the internal factors that African Americans cited the benefit of giving back to the community as a positive influence more than any other ethnic group.
Gaining a clear understanding of career choice specific to science education is vital at informing strategic recruitment plans. Therefore, practices that inform the parents of career benefits and opportunities that allow students to gain teaching experience may influence the students initial career choice. The plan is it further disseminate such results in by December 2018 to a journal such a Teaching and Teacher Education to broadly share these factors for other to consider as recruitment plans are being developed.