Pygmalion in the Classroom and the Home: Expectation’s Role in the Pipeline to STEMM
by Se Woong Lee, Sookweon Min & Geoffrey P. Mamerow — 2015
Background/Context: Although students frequently begin forming ideas about potential college majors or career choices prior to entering college, research on Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM), and (M)edicine has almost exclusively focused on students’ experiences in postsecondary institutions. To better understand the full length of the STEMM pipeline—from high school through to postsecondary levels—it is essential to identify and explore factors that influence students’ choices in STEMM while they are in secondary schools, a setting that is arguably the first critical step of the pipeline.
Purpose/Objective: Among factors that influence students’ choices to pursue STEMM fields, this study examines the influence of students’ self-efficacy and expectation, as well as the expectation and encouragement they received from parents and high school teachers on their decisions to major in, complete a degree in, and pursue a career in STEMM. Given this focus on expectation specifically, the study employs a conceptual framework developed through the application of prior literature on teacher and parent expectations, as well as Social Cognitive Career Theory.
Research Design: Using the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) 1987 data, the study investigated students’ decision making at three distinct time points along a typical STEMM education/career path and predicted their persistence in the STEMM pipeline by utilizing logistic regression analyses. To further examine whether such sets of expectations are moderated by gender, analysis also included interaction terms for gender and teacher expectation, as well as those of gender and parent expectation.
Findings/Results: The results of this study indicate that expectation plays a significant role in students’ choices in STEMM and teacher expectation is shown to be especially influential. Focusing on gender differences, males’ choices in STEMM were shown to be most affected by their teachers’ educational expectations and encouragement while females’ choices were most affected by those of their parents.
Conclusions/Recommendations: The decision to pursue education and a career in a STEMM is not a one-time decision, but a longitudinal process that begins during secondary education and carries on through into college. The findings of this study provide meaningful information about the importance of students’ self-efficacy and expectation within the STEMM pipeline, as well as the influence teacher expectations and encouragement can have on students’ pursuit of and persistence in STEMM.
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