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Study choice and career development in STEM fields: an overview and integration of the research

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Abstract

Although science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) study paths and STEM work fields may be relatively difficult and therefore not appropriate for everyone, too many children prematurely exclude STEM-related study and work options, based on negative images of the field or negative ability beliefs. In the present article, we provide an overview of the literature from different research perspectives that shows that study choice and career decisions made by young adults have their roots in earlier in childhood. In our view, the literature reviewed points to three interrelated factors that are important in the study choice and career development of children aged 8–16: knowledge, affective value, and ability beliefs and self-efficacy building. Based on this review, we argue that knowledge of the STEM field, and of the self in STEM activities, and parents’ and teachers’ knowledge of the early circumscription processes of children aged 8–16 needs to be broadened. Also, negative and often-stereotypical affective values adhered to STEM study choices or careers among parents and teachers need to be countered. With regard to ability beliefs, we argue that we should focus more attention on turning pupils’ entity beliefs into incremental ones.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a research Grant from the National Center of Expertise in Technology Education “TechYourFuture”, The Netherlands.

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Correspondence to Cathy van Tuijl.

Appendix: details of the studies that were used in our overview

Appendix: details of the studies that were used in our overview

References

Publication type

Design empirical study

N

Country

Age range

Sociological themes (SES, cultural capital, family beliefs)

Schulenberg et al. (1984)

Review

    

Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992)

Theoretical

    

Cook et al. (1996)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

220

US

8, 10, 12.5 and 14.5

Rojewski and Yang (1997)

Empirical

Longitudinal

18311

US

14–18

O’Brien et al. (1999)

Empirical

Experimental

57

US

11–14

Vilhjalmsdottir and Arnkelsson (2003)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

911

Iceland

15–16

Watson and McMahon (2005)

Review

   

13 or younger

Archer et al. (2012a)

Empirical

Qualitative, first wave longitudinal

92

UK

10

Gutman et al. (2012)

Empirical

Longitudinal

21000

UK

14–18

Beal and Crockett (2013)

Empirical

Longitudinal

636

US

14–16

Doren et al. (2013)

Empirical

Experimental

111

US

14–17

Archer et al. (2014)

Empirical

Cohort study, partly longitudinal

5634/85

UK

12–13

Vocational psychology

Tracey and Ward (1998)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

739

US

10–14

Spokane et al. (2000)

Review

    

Tracey (2002)

Empirical

Longitudinal

348

US

10–12

Helwig (2003)

Empirical

Longitudinal

208

US

7–17

Graziano et al. (2012)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

233

US

Study 2: 9 and 12

Pinxten et al. (2012)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

2518

Belgium (Flanders)

15

Psychological themes (interest, motivation, task value)

Eccles (1983)

Theoretical

    

Lent et al. (1994)

Theoretical and meta-analysis

    

Fouad and Smith (1996)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

380

US

12–15

Jodl et al. (2001)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

444

US

14–15

Eccles and Wigfield (2002)

Review

    

Lent et al. (2003)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

796

Italy

14–18

Turner and Lapan (2003)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

254

US

13–14

Durik et al. (2006)

Empirical

Longitudinal

606

US

10 and 16

Lent et al. (2008)

Empirical

Longitudinal

209

US

17–18

Ali and Saunders (2009)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

63

US

14–18

Jantzer et al. (2009)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

820

US

14

Sheu et al. (2010)

Meta-analysis

   

>14

Fulcher (2011)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

150

US

7–12

Chow et al. (2012)

Empirical

Longitudinal

600

US and Finland

14–18

Watt et al. (2012)

Empirical

Longitudinal

1247

Australia, Canada, US

15–16, 17–18

Lent and Brown (2013)

Theoretical

    

Robnett and Leaper (2013)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

468

US

13–18

Gender

Helwig (1998b)

Empirical

Longitudinal

208

US

7–11

Liben et al. (2002)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

64 and 51

US

6–11 and 6–10

Schoon and Parsons (2002)

Empirical

Cohort studies, cross-sectional

11016 and 6417

UK

16

Fuller et al. (2005)

Empirical

Cross-sectional and qualitative

1281 and 73

UK

14–15

Miller and Hayward (2006)

Empirical

cross-sectional

508

UK

14–18

Ceci et al. (2009)

Review

    

Weisgram et al. (2010)

Empirical

Cross-sectional and experimental

313 and 240

US

5–10 and 11–17

Beltz et al. (2011)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

125

US

9–26

Cvencek et al. (2011)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

247

US

6–10

Novakovic and Fouad (2012)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

217

US

14–19

Vervecken et al. (2013)

Empirical

Experimental

352

Germany and Belgium

6–12 and 6–16

Educational studies (curriculum, teachers, career guidance)

Haney et al. (1996)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

800

US

(teachers)

Harlen and Holroyd (1997)

Empirical

Qualitative

60

UK

(teachers)

Appleton and Kindt (1999)

Empirical

Qualitative

9

Australia

(teachers)

Li (1999)

Review

    

McWhirter et al. (2000)

Empirical

Experimental

166

US

15

Harkins (2001)

Review

   

6–12

Hoffman (2002)

Empirical

Experimental

456

Germany

13

Cleaves (2005)

Empirical

Longitudinal, qualitative

21/4

UK

13–17

Rasinen et al. (2009)

Descriptive

  

Finland and Germany

 

Olszewski-Kubilius (2010)

Descriptive

  

US

 

Halpern et al. (2011)

Descriptive

  

US

 

Krapp and Prenzel (2011)

Overview

    

Whiston et al. (2011)

Meta-analysis

 

16296

 

8–20

Van Aalderen-Smeets et al. (2012)

Theoretical

    

Meluso et al. (2012)

Empirical

Experimental

100

US

9

Schmitt-Wilson and Welsh (2012)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

132

US

10–13

Life-span or developmental studies

Gottfredson (1981)

Theoretical

    

Gottfredson (1996)

Theoretical

    

Helwig (1998a)

Empirical

Longitudinal

208

US

7–11

Vondracek et al. (1999)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

685

Germany

10–13

Armstrong and Crombie (2000)

Empirical

Longitudinal

502

Canada

14, 15

Helwig (2008)

Empirical

Longitudinal

208

US

7–23

Lee and Rojewski (2009)

Empirical

Longitudinal

26432

US

14, 16, 18, 20, 26

Jenkins and Nelson (2010)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

1277

UK

13–17

Hughes (2011)

Empirical

Experimental

46

US

10–13

Lang (2012)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

113

Australia

8–12

Perez-Felkner et al. (2012)

Empirical

Longitudinal

2990

US

16

DeWitt et al. (2013)

Empirical

Cross-sectional, part of longitudinal

9319

UK

10–14

Mixed

Bandura et al. (2001)

Empirical

Cross-sectional (first wave longitudinal)

272

Italy

12–15

Osborne et al. (2003)

Review

    

Auger et al. (2005)

Empirical

Cross-sectional

123

US

6–10

Hartung et al. (2005)

Review

   

3–14

Schoon et al. (2007)

Empirical

Longitudinal

21294

UK

0, 16, (30, 33)

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2008)

Empirical

Cohort study

Unknown

15 countries

15–19

Ashby and Schoon (2010)

Empirical

Longitudinal

3675

UK

16

Archer et al. (2012b)

Empirical

Qualitative, first wave longitudinal

92/17

UK

10–11

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van Tuijl, C., van der Molen, J.H.W. Study choice and career development in STEM fields: an overview and integration of the research. Int J Technol Des Educ 26, 159–183 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10798-015-9308-1

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