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The science career decision : a model describing the career orientation and decision-making processes of science-track students

By Robert Bertram Flegg

Abstract

Throughout the last decade there has been much public discussion on the topic of participation in the sciences. The dialogue has centred around two issues, the lack of talented young people entering science careers and the under-participation of females in the physical sciences. In Australia there have been moves within government circles to embed vocational education within the high school curriculum in an effort to meet national economic goals. There is, therefore, a need for current knowledge concerning science career choice among young people.\ud \ud Previous studies of scientists have produced lists of personal and social characteristics which may contribute to a person entering a science career but there is a significant lack of knowledge of the thought processes which occur in young people prior to making a science career decision. This study addresses the issue of how and why young people decide to pursue a science career beyond secondary school.\ud \ud An in-depth case study was carried out in one Brisbane high school. A group of eighteen final year students with intentions to choose science-related courses at university was interviewed and observed informally throughout the year by their teacher-researcher. A considerable amount of secondary data relating to the academic performance of the students and the social contexts of their school and families were also collected.\ud \ud The data were analysed using grounded theory procedures. this involved the coding of transcripts to identify natural categories which represented causal conditions for science career choice. Two core categories, an image of self in a science career and the science career decision were identified and defined in terms of contributing sub-categories which represented the contextual forces and personal cognitive processes which lead to a decision to pursue a science career. The findings were grounded in the data by constant referral to the student responses. A model for describing students' decision making processes for science careers emerged from the data.\ud \ud The model provides vivid description and deep insight into the thoughts and experiences of developing scientists which cannot be found in any other known study. Of particular interest are the new understandings gained of the development of students' perceptions of science, especially with respect to gender differences. The importance of science experiences during early childhood is also emphasised. Careers advisers, science teachers, educational administrators and academics in scientific and educational fields may find the model very useful.\ud \ud The findings have many social implications with regards to the public perceptions of science and pedagogy. The view is expressed that the scientific community of practice needs to be extended beyond the traditional view of the scientist to include scientists in training

Topics: Science Vocational guidance, career development, career choice, decision making, occupational aspiration, vocational interests, science education, science interests, thesis, doctoral, HERN
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 1997
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.qut.edu.au:36542
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