Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Education

Supervisor

DeCoito, Isha

2nd Supervisor

Namukasa, Immaculate K.

Co-Supervisor

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to investigate cross-sectionally and longitudinally the direct and indirect effects of a STEM outreach program in Ontario, Canada, on middle and high-school students’ STEM career intentions through STEM self-efficacy, outcome expectations, interest and identity. The STEM outreach program provided students with hands-on, investigative and exciting workshops aiming at increasing interest in STEM disciplines and careers. Mediation and longitudinal mediation analysis procedures were employed to analyze a secondary data to answer the following research questions: 1) To what extent did the STEM outreach program influence high-school students’ STEM career choice goals directly and indirectly through STEM self-efficacy, outcome expectations, interest and identity? 2) To what extent did the direct and indirect effects of the STEM outreach program on middle-school students’ STEM career intentions through STEM self-efficacy, outcome expectations, interest and identity change from Phase II to Phase III? The research questions and analysis were guided by social cognitive career theory’s interest-choice model and science identity theory. The findings from the analysis revealed that students’ STEM self-efficacy, outcome expectations and identity were found to be significant mediating predictors of the association between the outreach workshops and high-school students’ STEM career goals. It was also found that the change from Phase II to Phase III in the indirect effect of STEM outcome expectations on the relationship between outreach workshops and middle-school students’ STEM career pursuits was statistically significant. The results presented theoretical and practical implications. The findings not only supported the hypothesis of and prior literature by the interest-choice model and science identity theory but also contributed to the advancement of theoretical understanding of the influences of contextual, cognitive and identity variables on the process of career development. This was done by examining the cross-sectional and longitudinal mediating effects of STEM cognitive and identity variables on the association between STEM outreach workshops and STEM career pursuits that have not been sufficiently addressed in the present studies. The study findings were also believed to present useful insights for teachers, district and school administrators, and stakeholders of overseeing STEM outreach programs to design and implement integrated and inquiry-based learning experiences.

Summary for Lay Audience

While China and India are emerging to become world leaders in STEM and advanced technology industries, STEM disciplines have been facing crisis in Canada and other comparable countries in terms of students’ lack of interest and poor academic performance. A variety of interventions that emphasize STEM enrichment have been initiated to enhance students’ interest in STEM subjects and careers. The context of the study was a STEM outreach program that, facilitated with real scientists and engineers, provided hands-on, investigative and exciting workshops to middle and high-school students in a school district in Ontario, Canada. The study aimed at examining the influence of the STEM outreach workshops on students’ self-efficacy and outcome expectations beliefs, interest, identity and intention of choosing a career in STEM. It also investigated whether there was a change in students’ perceptions about the influence of the STEM outreach workshops on students’ self-efficacy and outcome expectations beliefs, interest, identity and intention of choosing a career in STEM from Phase II to Phase III. The findings of the study showed that participation in the outreach workshops (a) increased students’ beliefs in their abilities to perform STEM related duties, (b) enhanced their sense of belonging to STEM community, (c) improved their beliefs about future positive outcomes from participating in STEM activities, and (d) strengthened the likelihood of them remaining in STEM pathways. The study results also revealed that there was a positive change in students’ perceptions from Phase II to Phase III that the STEM outreach workshops enhanced their expectation beliefs about the usefulness of choosing a career in STEM for their future, which, in turn, increased the likelihood of their intention to major in STEM. The findings of the study offer insights for teachers, district and school administrators and stakeholders of STEM outreach programs to design and implement hands-on and exciting learning experiences.

Available for download on Thursday, August 31, 2023

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