Simple question predicts which students likely to earn STEM degrees

Want to know which of your students are most likely to earn STEM college degrees?  Ask them a simple question in 11th and 12th grade.

Junior and senior high school students who said they believe they have the intellectual capacity to be scientists, mathematicians and/or engineers are 3.6 times more likely to earn STEM degrees than students who don’t feel this way, according to a new study in the Journal of Advanced Academics.

But if you ask your freshmen or sophomores or students in earlier grades this question, their answers don’t predict the likelihood of earning STEM degrees.

The data in this study was collected as part of a retrospective, online survey study funded by the National Science Foundation. Researchers analyzed surveys from 3,510 graduates  of selective specialized science high schools in the US as well as 603 same-age students  who did not attend a specialized science high school but participated in Talent Search programs.

Talent Search programs offer above-grade-level testing and enrichment programs for academically talented students in Grades 3-9.

Students who feel they have the intellectual capacity for a STEM career in junior year and senior year did not all express an early interest in science and math.  Not all students who expressed  an early interest  in science reported having confidence in the intellectual capacity for STEM careers, the researchers report.

“A major implication of this finding is that simply leaving students who are already interested in STEM to fend for themselves is not as beneficial as developing engaging environments that intensify their interests,” according to the study.

 “Specialized High Schools and Talent Search Programs: Incubators for Adolescents With High Ability in STEM Disciplines,” by John Almarode et al., Journal of Advanced Academics, Volume 25, Number 3, 2014, pp. 307-331.

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