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What got you interested in STEM?

Posted by Melissa on September 7, 2011

Today Microsoft released the results of a survey the company commissioned titled STEM Perceptions: Student & Parent Study. The survey asked college students majoring in STEM fields and parents of K-12 students about a range of topics related to the importance of STEM education, the quality of the preparation provided by K-12 education, and the factors motivating students to choose to study STEM. The results of the survey provide interesting snapshots of student and parent perceptions on a variety of topics related to STEM education.

I was particularly interested in the questions about when students decided to study STEM and what got them interested in these fields. Fifty-seven percent of the survey respondents decided that they wanted to study STEM when in high school followed by 20% who decided in college and 13% who decided in middle/junior high school. I was under the impression that more students decided they were interested in studying STEM earlier in their educational careers.

When asked what got them interested in STEM before college, student responses exhibited a gender divide. For female students, the number one thing that got them interested in STEM was a teacher or a class. Sixty-eight percent of females said a teacher/class was influential in promoting interest as compared to 51% of males. On the other hand, for male students games or toys were the most cited source of interest in STEM. Sixty-one percent of males said games/toys got them interested in STEM as compared to 29% of females.

My own experience is somewhat consistent with the survey results. I only became interested in studying STEM during my junior year of high school; the biggest factor leading to my interest was outreach programs (as I have discussed in a previous post) supplemented by an excellent high school physics teacher. For those of you who are in STEM fields, what got you interested in STEM? When did you decide you wanted to study STEM?


3 Responses to “What got you interested in STEM?”

  1. This is interesting, because there’s a group of CS educators who believe that gaming (dissecting games, learning to program games) is how we’re going to get more underrepresented groups interested in studying CS. This study seems to contradict that idea, at least for women!

    I became interested in STEM in junior high, because of a math teacher (male) and biology teacher (female), who saw my potential and went out of their way to find challenge problems for me, etc. to keep me interested. I think going to an all-girls high school helped sustain my interest. Fun fact: I only had one male science/math teacher in high school, and it was the only science/math class I didn’t like! (To this day, I still hate Chemistry, and I blame that teacher for making the subject so awful and boring and confusing to me.)

  2. My experience is fairly similar. I was accepted to the ND Governor’s school for science and math (back when it was just science and math), and I got interested in research. My research that summer was in botany, and I discovered I didn’t like biology all that much. The following year, I took AP physics, and I fell in love with it. My teacher did a lot outside of class to encourage me, and that ended up leading me down the path I’m on now.

  3. Reblogged this on Freethinkers Notes.

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