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The Role of Dual Enrollment STEM Coursework in Increasing STEM Career Interest Among American High School Students

by Elysa Corin, Gerhard Sonnert & Philip Sadler - 2020

Background/Context: The United States is facing a shortage of domestically prepared STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professionals, yet many high school graduates find they are not sufficiently prepared for college-level work in STEM subjects. Dual enrollment STEM courses count for both high school and college credit, expose students to the demands of a college course, and may be used to augment existing high school course offerings and graduate students who are better prepared to continue, and are interested in continuing, their education in STEM.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study investigated changes in students’ reported interest in STEM careers after taking a dual enrollment STEM course. We address the following questions: (1) Are high school students who take one or more STEM dual enrollment courses more likely than their peers to report an interest in STEM careers by the end of high school? (2) Is dual enrollment STEM course-taking more effective than Advanced Placement STEM course-taking in increasing student interest in STEM careers by the end of high school?

Research Design: A quasi-experimental research design was used in this work, with propensity weights employed to account for group self-selection effects post hoc. Data were collected through a national survey of college students (N = 14,114) who provided information about their K–12 experiences.

Findings/Results: After controlling for demographic, academic, and background characteristics, particularly prior interest in a STEM career, the odds of a STEM career intention were 1.3 times (p < .05) greater for those taking a dual enrollment course compared with peers who did not. Students who took both dual enrollment and AP STEM courses had 2.1 times the odds of their nonparticipating peers to report an interest in STEM careers. Results show that the STEM dual enrollment intervention is equally effective for students of all demographic backgrounds.

Conclusions/Recommendations: This study is the first to examine the link between dual enrollment and career interest, revealing an additional avenue through which students may be encouraged to pursue STEM careers. Dual enrollment is a promising intervention to increase STEM career interest among all high school students, including students of different genders, races, socioeconomic status (as measured by highest parental education level), and academic achievement (as measured by math SAT score). The policy implications for this work are that dual enrollment programs should be vigorously implemented and promoted in an effort to increase the number of students, especially students from underrepresented groups, who graduate from high school with an interest in a STEM career.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 2, 2020, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23184, Date Accessed: 6/6/2020 10:46:37 AM

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About the Author
  • Elysa Corin
    Institute for Learning Innovation
    E-mail Author
    ELYSA CORIN is a senior researcher with the Institute for Learning Innovation. Her research interests include free-choice learning across settings, as well as the resources and contexts that support STEM learning and interest development. Recent publications include “Science Hobbyists: Active Users of the Science-Learning Ecosystem” and “Characteristics of Lifelong Science Learners: An Investigation of STEM Hobbyists,” both in The International Journal of Science Education, Part B.
  • Gerhard Sonnert
    Harvard University
    E-mail Author
    GERHARD SONNERT is a lecturer on astronomy at Harvard University and a research associate in the Harvard College Observatory. His research interests include astrosociology, gender in science, science education, science policy, history of science, and migration. Among his recent publications are “Evaluating the Quality of Middle School Mathematics Teachers, Using Videos Rated by College Students” in Studies in Educational Evaluation and “Sociological Research and Modernity: The Rise and Fall of the Survey Subject” in the International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society.
  • Philip Sadler
    Harvard University
    E-mail Author
    PHILIP SADLER is the director of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ Science Education Department and F.W. Wright Senior Lecturer in Astronomy. He has taught middle school mathematics, science, and engineering, undergraduate astronomy, and graduate teaching courses. His current research interests include assessment of students’ misconceptions and how they change with instruction, the transition to college of students who wish to purse STEM careers, and the professional development of science teachers. Dr. Sadler has won the Journal of Research in Science Teaching Award, the AIP’s Computers in Physics Prize, the American Astronomical Society Education Prize, and the American Association of Physics Teachers’ Millikan Medal.
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