This quantitative causal-comparative study was completed to identify the differences in STEM self-concept between male and female participants in the Science Olympiad, as well as to identify factors that were predictive of STEM self-concepts for each gender. Current research pointed to STEM identity as a key attribute that must be developed for females to pursue majors and careers in STEM; girls need to be able to see themselves as someone who belongs in the STEM field. Social cognitive career theory has been a framework utilized to understand how females create a STEM identity and develop STEM self-concept—the belief that one has, or can develop, the necessary skills to succeed in the STEM field. Research has shown that participation in STEM extracurricular activities is a contributing factor for enhancing students’ STEM self-concepts. Science Olympiad was a particularly interesting extracurricular activity to study for this type of research, as it engages the participation of over 240,000 students in the United States every year and is composed of 23 events that cover a span of topics in the STEM domain. Moreover, the participation rate for males and females in Science Olympiad were nearly equal, which is anomalous for STEM extracurriculars which have traditionally been male-dominated. In this research study of 694 participants in the Pennsylvania Science Olympiad, the relationships between STEM self-concept, gender, and participation in various categories of Science Olympiad events for middle and high school students were explored. There were statistically significant differences discovered between male and female participants, with males having greater STEM self-concepts than females. There were statistically significant differences between school levels that were also revealed, with middle school students having greater STEM self-concepts than high school students for both genders. Through multiple regression analysis, it was discovered that student autonomy was a significant, and the strongest predictor of STEM self-concept for both males and females, with additional factors of being in middle school, competing in a competition, and participating in the Technology & Engineering category to be statistically significant predictors for females. Finally, descriptive statistics demonstrated distinctly lower mean STEM self-concept values for males and females in the low autonomy groups compared to the high autonomy groups, thereby indicating the importance of students having higher levels of autonomy when selecting Science Olympiad events. This research study filled some important gaps in the literature for Science Olympiad, STEM self-concept, and cross-sectional differences in STEM identity in an effort to better understand and rectify the persistent underrepresentation of females in STEM.
|Commitee:||Harrison, Melinda, Best, Scott A|
|School Location:||United States -- Pennsylvania|
|Source:||DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Science education, Educational leadership, Psychology, Gender studies|
|Keywords:||School transition, Science Olympiad, Self-concept, STEM|
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