The current studies investigated how interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers is predicted both by academic motivation as well as by beliefs that STEM careers allow the fulfillment of communal goals (i.e., communal affordances). This research also examines whether past course experiences of being exposed to communal information about STEM predicts increased beliefs that STEM careers afford communal goals. As anticipated, STEM communal affordances predicted increased STEM career interest, above and beyond the benefits of academic motivation/attitudes (e.g., positivity toward courses, intention to persist). Classroom exposure to communal opportunities in math and science predicted increased beliefs that STEM careers afford communal goals, and in turn predicted increased STEM career interest (Studies 2 and 3). Taken together, these studies suggest that focusing only on fostering STEM academic motivation may be insufficient to foster interest in STEM careers. Instead, focusing on both student academic motivation and student beliefs about whether STEM careers provide opportunities to pursue valued communal goals may provide a more holistic approach to fostering STEM career interest.
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Throughout this study, participants responded to measures investigating their views of and interest in careers involving quantitative skills, which the attendees understood to comprise careers that require math or other analytical skills. The fields attendees learned about during their day were STEM careers or closely-related fields. For clarity and cohesion, we refer to these careers as STEM careers throughout this study, but note that attendees responded to measures asking them of their views of careers involving quantitative skills.
Although this alpha coefficient is low for this study, alphas are higher (.82 and .88) in Studies 2 and 3. In addition, analyses showed a similar pattern of results when items were analyzed separately (with stronger results for the item power). To avoid reliance on single items, we opt to report the average.
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The authors wish to thank Aimee Belanger, Tessa Benson-Greenwald, Riley O’Grady, and Mia Steinberg for their suggestions on this manuscript. The authors also wish to thank Chrissy Graham, Dana Manson, Sam Farina, Caroline McClellan, and Daniel Friedman for their assistance with data collection. This research was supported by National Science Foundation (Grant Nos. GSE/RES 0827606, GSE/RES 1232364) grants awarded to Amanda Diekman.
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Fuesting, M.A., Diekman, A.B. & Hudiburgh, L. From classroom to career: the unique role of communal processes in predicting interest in STEM careers. Soc Psychol Educ 20, 875–896 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-017-9398-6