Pressurizing the STEM Pipeline: an Expectancy-Value Theory Analysis of Youths’ STEM Attitudes

Over the past decade, there has been a strong national push to increase minority students’ positive attitudes towards STEM-related careers. However, despite this focus, minority students have remained underrepresented in these fields. Some researchers have directed their attention towards improving the STEM pipeline which carries students through our educational system and into STEM careers. Previous research has shown that expectancy-value theory (EVT) is useful for examining the short-term as well as long-term academic motivations and intentions of elementary age minority students. These findings provide insights into ways we may be able to potentially “patch” particular STEM pipeline leaks. In the current study, we advance this research by using EVT as a framework to examine the STEM attitudes of young students directly. We hypothesize that students’ academic-related expectancies for success and subjective task values will be associated with an increase in STEM attitudes. Data for this study was gathered over the course of a large-scale computing intervention which sought to increase students’ STEM interest. This computing intervention took place in an urban elementary school district located within the southeastern USA. Results from this study indicate that both intrinsic values and utility values predict students’ STEM attitudes but they influence attitudes related to the various dimensions of STEM differently. These findings demonstrate that EVT provides a useful framework, which can be integrated into future computing interventions, to help encourage positive STEM attitudes in young children, thus increasing the internal pressure (or flow) within the STEM pipeline.

Ball, C., Huang, K. T., Cotten, S. R., & Rikard, R. V. (2017). Pressurizing the STEM Pipeline: an Expectancy-Value Theory Analysis of Youths’ STEM Attitudes. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 1-11.