Key factors related to high school girls' interest and aspirations in engineering, science, and math

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings

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We present initial findings from an ongoing study taking place in 5 schools in a large urban district in the Northeast. For this investigation, we limited our analytic sample to the 549 female participants from whom we collected survey data in order to examine correlates of girls' interest in pursuing college coursework in engineering, science, and mathematics. Using a socialecological framework, we found differing patterns of associations using engagement, capacity, and continuity variables (as suggested by Jolly et al.'s trilogy model) for the three domains. Engineering interests and aspirations were related to school characteristics, science and math self-efficacy, and experience with extracurricular activities. Interest and aspirations for science were correlated with science salience and support from science teachers, while interest and aspirations for mathematics study was associated with math self-efficacy, math salience, and support from math teachers. Gender ideology also played a role, but in the opposite direction expected. To shed additional light on these findings, we analyzed data from Key Informant interviews conducted with several local and national STEM leaders. Themes from the Key Informant interviews included attention to extracurricular activities (infrastructural issues, socioeconomic support, the need to support adults in their work with urban youth, specific challenges associated with after-school STEM opportunities) and messages to girls regarding STEM involvement (gender-specific messages that can discourage or encourage girls, presentation of STEM opportunities that appeal to girls and speak to their interests). Implications for teaching and practice are discussed. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2008.



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