International Journal of STEM Education
Background: Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs are expected to make up a significant portion of the U.S. workforce. Unfortunately, the trend in retaining students in STEM majors has been going down. If higher education institutions are going to retain more students in STEM majors, it will be important to understand who leaves STEM fields and why. More than 32% of women college students who declare a STEM major are likely to switch to non-STEM majors before they graduate, whereas only 25% of their male counterparts do so, and women may be as much as 1.5 times more likely than men to leave STEM fields. Thus, women represent a significant potential source for increasing STEM majors. Research suggests that values and expectations are powerful predictors of motivation and persistence in a wide variety of activities, tasks, and careers. This paper describes the development and validation of an instrument to measure student motivation, particularly that of women, leading to decisions to persist in or switch out of collegiate STEM programs.
Results: The Value-Expectancy STEM Assessment Scale (VESAS), adapted from the Values, Interest, and Expectations Scale, or VIES, was validated with 356 women students from a Midwestern research university as part of a larger study on the reasons that women persist or leave STEM majors. A confirmatory factor analysis suggested a two-factor model, which reflected the components of Eccles et al.’s expectancy-value model. Cronbach’s alphas suggested that the VESAS subscales had high internal consistency. Statistically significant differences were found between STEM switchers and persisters on all of the VESAS subscales, thus lending additional support for the validity of the instrument.
Conclusions: The VESAS appears to be a valid scale for measuring female college students’ value for and expectations regarding STEM majors. Suggestions are made for use of the VESAS in future studies to examine how motivations of women students enrolled in STEM programs change over time and to better understand when retention interventions might be needed and with whom.
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Appianing, Joseph and Van Eck, Richard, "Development and validation of the Value-Expectancy STEM Assessment Scale for students in higher education" (2018). Teaching, Leadership & Professional Practice Faculty Publications. 14.