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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

Perceptions of the Social Relevance of Science: Exploring the Implications for Gendered Patterns in Expectations of Majoring in STEM Fields

1
Education & Employment Research Center, Rutgers University, 94 Rockafeller Road, Second Floor, Piscataway, NJ 00854-8054, USA
2
Population Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin, 305 E. 23rd Street, Stop G1800, Austin, TX 78712-1699, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Maria Charles and Sarah Thébaud
Soc. Sci. 2017, 6(1), 19; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6010019
Received: 1 September 2016 / Revised: 9 January 2017 / Accepted: 15 February 2017 / Published: 21 February 2017
Despite efforts to increase participation in science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM), the role of students’ perceptions of the social relevance of science in guiding their expectations to major in STEM remains largely unexplored. Though science education scholars predict that perceptions of social relevance likely matter equally for boys and girls, gender scholars suggest that these perceptions should matter more for girls than boys. Using longitudinal data from a large, urban, low-income, and predominantly minority-serving district, this study examines the potentially gendered role of perceptions of social relevance in ninth graders’ expectations to major in STEM. Further, it examines these dynamics with respect to expectations to major in any STEM field as well as expectations to major in specific STEM fields. Findings largely support the perspective of gender scholars; perceptions of the social relevance of science positively and significantly predict female, but not male, students’ intentions to major in STEM (vs. non-STEM fields). Subsequent analyses that look at intentions to major in specific STEM fields reveal a similar pattern, such that perceptions of relevance positively predict female students’ intentions to major in the biological sciences, the physical sciences, and engineering, while male students’ intentions are not similarly impacted. By contrast, positive perceptions of the relevance of science predict a modest increase in interest in computer science for both boys and girls. View Full-Text
Keywords: social relevance; science attitudes; perceptions; gender; STEM; expectations; majors; field of study; middle school; high school social relevance; science attitudes; perceptions; gender; STEM; expectations; majors; field of study; middle school; high school
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Blanchard Kyte, S.; Riegle-Crumb, C. Perceptions of the Social Relevance of Science: Exploring the Implications for Gendered Patterns in Expectations of Majoring in STEM Fields. Soc. Sci. 2017, 6, 19.

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