Research

CAMP: Hispanics in the Pipeline: Foundations of Persistence from Middle School to STEM Careers 

PI: AnneMarie Conley
Co-PI: Jacquelynne Eccles & Stuart Karabenick (University of Michigan)

Project Scientist: Nayssan Safavian

Funding: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Duration: 2015-2018

Background

Hispanics’ underrepresentation in STEM presents economic and intellectual challenges. Only 4% of the U.S. STEM workforce is Hispanic (3% male, 1% female). Hispanic youth, the largest minority and fastest growing demographic group, are the most likely to drop out of the STEM pipeline before college and are the least likely to complete college STEM training. Understanding the psychosocial non-cognitive influences on Hispanic youth’s educational and occupational decisions are critical for designing effective strategies to confront this critical issue. Though several non-cognitive constructs are promising targets of interventions, no studies have documented their association with Hispanic youth’s STEM-related educational and occupational choices/persistence.

Project Description

This study builds on an existing longitudinal study of 14,000 mostly Hispanic and low-income secondary (middle and high) school students (funded by NSF) to create a 15-year database.

  • Goal 1 consists of examining the STEM-related educational and occupational pathways of Hispanic youth and young adults. To our knowledge this is the only longitudinal dataset to include secondary school experiences of Hispanic youth, which includes measures of such essential constructs as: (a) self-efficacy, mindsets, subjective task values, and affective experiences, (b) educational and career aspirations and attainment, (c) high school course choices, and (d) academic achievement. This unique longitudinal database will examine the links between these constructs assessed in secondary school and post high school educational and occupational choices/persistence.
  • Goal 2 will follow up on 1,500 Hispanic youth to identify the perceived obstacles, buffers, and unique opportunities related to postsecondary STEM attainment by closely examining youth from three groups; those who: (a) aspired to and remained in STEM, (b) aspired to but left STEM, and (c) did not have STEM aspirations in high school but later pursued STEM.
  • Goal 3 will assess the links between students’ experiences in math classrooms, immediate over-the-year changes (motivational beliefs, college and career aspirations) and long-term outcomes (college and occupational choices).

Intellectual Merit

This study will contribute to the further refinement of two major social-cognitive/motivational theories of educational success and educational and occupational choices: Achievement Goal Theory (AGT) and Expectancy-Value Theory (EVT). AGT focuses on learners’ reasons for engaging in achievement tasks and their standards for success. Though this theory provides predictors of short-term benefits such as grades, the importance of these beliefs to understand educational and occupational choices/persistence has not been studied. EVT proposes that achievement-related choices are a function of students’ expectancies for success and subjective task values (STV) across academic and career domains. STV includes perceived interest, utility, attainment value and cost of the task. Extant research supports these predictions regarding choice of high school STEM courses and college majors primarily for white middle class youth. Longitudinal research with Hispanic populations is necessary because they may be motivated differently, in particular the role of perceived costs (e.g., of not financially contributing to their family) and attainment value in pursuing higher education. This study will address these theoretical and applied gaps by testing both the models’ utility for explaining gender and ethnic group differences in career choices related to STEM.