Science and Me: Who Should I Be? STEM Interested Students' Trajectories and Reflections regarding Choice of Tertiary Education

Publikation: AfhandlingPh.d.-afhandling


The work presented in this thesis is based on a longitudinal, mixed methods study of university distant Science, Technology, Engineering and/or Mathematic (STEM) oriented students. The students all participated in the recruitment project ‘Spotted for Uni’ at the University of Aarhus in Denmark between 2011 and 2014.
The specific aim of this study was to understand the students’ individual reflections regarding choice of tertiary education. In particular I aimed to explore how the stu-dents’ choices were influenced by their perceived matches to STEM professionals and tertiary STEM students, how often and how much the students’ trajectories changed, and how the students accounted for these changes. Identity work provided a productive lens for investigating these questions.
Educational trajectories and reflections of 15 focus students were studied in-depth over a period of four and a half years from the time the students had one and a half years left in upper secondary school and until three years after the students graduated upper secondary school, at which point all of them had matriculated tertiary education. During the four and a half years, the focus students were interviewed individually ten times. Moreover, educational trajectories of a group of 238 participants from the ‘Spotted for Uni’ project were followed quantitatively.
The students’ prototypical images of STEM professionals were realistic, predomi-nately positive and mainly related to an epistemological ‘scientific core description’. Differences between students’ self-perceptions and descriptions of STEM profes-sionals were generally related to ‘a second layer’ of social characteristics. This sec-ond layer was perceived as a necessity when students described themselves, and as a possible add-on for describing prototypical STEM professionals. In real-life meet-ings with tertiary STEM students, the students painted a more differentiated picture both with regard to the scientific core description and the personalising add–on description. Students did not negotiate mismatches with real-life tertiary STEM stu-dents to the same extent as they did with the prototypical STEM professionals. Stu-dents’ choices of tertiary STEM education thus proved to depend on their prototypical STEM images, but also on real-life meetings with tertiary STEM students.
The students’ educational reflections changed continuously through the study peri-od in a dynamic and complex, ongoing process. The majority of the students’ educational trajectories were multidirectional, and students often changed between considering pursuing STEM and non-STEM programmes. In total, more students in this study opted into than out of the STEM pipeline. Both intrinsic and extrinsic parameters affected students’ educational reflections, and the parameters were found to affect students’ educational trajectories over time as ‘critical experiences’. Most students did not, however, perceive the changes in their trajectories as significantly changing their educational reflections. This was because students continuously rewrote their educational narratives.
ISBN'er, trykt978-87-93440-00-5
StatusUdgivet - 30. nov. 2015
Udgivet eksterntJa


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