Students' perceptions of scientists in career aspirations

Date

2020-05

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Abstract

Globally, students are moving away from science due to a lack of interest in the subject and the career field. The issue is especially relevant in developed countries, like the United States, Japan, and South Korea because of their policies and efforts to promote science and science education with students in their country. However, developing countries like Jamaica and El Salvador, that have a desire to improve their economies and educational results likewise have a desire to improve their science education outcomes. One way to address this issue around science interest is by capturing students’ thoughts about science and the science career is through perception-based research. This study used such a method to extract information about students’ self-schema in the science domain and how they perceive the science field. This study uses the circumscription and compromise theory (CCT) of career development to address the science interest and science pipeline issue on a developmental scale. CCT is a career aspiration theory that purports that individuals select careers not as a single, all-encompassing step but instead through a series of age-specific circumscriptions, or stages. The four stages of CCT are size and power between the ages of three and five years old, sex roles between the ages of six to eight years old, social value between the ages of nine to thirteen years old, and unique self at ages about fourteen years old. CCT was selected both for its validation in other research and for its ability to categorize students’ perceptions based on career aspirations. Using CCT allowed for discussing what aspects of their perceptions need to be addressed in order to fix issues regarding science interests and aspirations. study used an expanded form of the Draw-a-Scientist Test (DAST) that included questions about the respondent’s demographics and reflection questions about the students’ perceptions about scientists and their behaviors. The responses from this survey were coded using CCT to create a priori codes. Data was collected from five countries: The United States, South Korea, Jamaica, Japan, and El Salvador, and the results were compared across genders, age groupings, and countries. The aims of this study were to address: (1) how CCT emerged in students’ DAST surveys, (2) the frequency of the CCT constructs across age groups, (3) the frequency of CCT constructs across genders, and (4) the frequency of CCT constructs across the countries sampled. The findings presented information about where on the age continuum students were circumscribing the science career.
Results found that the patterns in students’ responses aligned with the age groupings predicted by CCT. Along with this, the frequency of the first stage decreased with age while the others tended to increase. The second stage, sex roles, showed that 45% of females appear to perceive science as a masculine trade; though high, this number is smaller than the frequency reported in other DAST studies. The stage with the highest frequency was the social value stage; a result that was common across all countries in the sample. Stage four, unique self, increased and peaked at the 14 and older age group, indicating that students’ perceptions became increasingly more negative as they got older. Only the first and second stages showed significant variation between genders; a phenomenon supported by previous research. Although there was some variation between countries, as reported in the full text, largely the results showed that the issues that emerged were nearly all globally consistent, indicating the issues with student perceptions are cross-national. In the end, this study presents a model for improving science interest and career aspirations on a developmentally appropriate scale by addressing interventions for K – 12 students.

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Keywords

DAST, Career aspirations, Circumscription and compromise theory

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