24 SES 14 JS, STEM, Gender and Achievement in Schools
Joint Paper Session NW 14 and NW 24
Many contemporary policies and current research evidence suggest how the interest of European youth for STEM school subjects is declining, the number of students choosing to study STEM university programs is low and especially low is the number of students choosing carriers in STEM professional area. This is a matter of concern amongst policy makers in many particular countries, (Roberts, 2002; National Academy of Sciences 2005) and across Europe (European Commission, 2004).
Existing evidence highlighting the issue of self-competence beliefs, shows this constructs as especially important in understanding and explaining students’ school performance in STEM area. Self-competence beliefs represent “children's cognitive representations of how good they are at a given activity” (Freiberger, Steinmayr, & Spinath, 2012, p. 518). They encompass information important for one’s identity and information important for one’s performance. Information about one’s efficacy, or academic self-efficacy beliefs (ASE) represent individuals' convictions that they can successfully perform given academic tasks at designated levels (Bandura, 1997; Schunk, 1991). They refer to students' perceptions of their ability to master given tasks or develop specific competences (Bong, 2001) or judgments that reflect task-specific performance expectations (Zimmerman, 2000). On the other hand, self-evaluations of specific abilities or qualities are sometimes termed as domain-specific self-concepts, or more broadly as an academic self-concept (ASC) (Marsh 1990, Marsh, Byrne, & Shavelson, 1988; Marsh and O' Mara, 2008; Schavelson, Hubner, & Stanton, 1976). These constructs have sometimes been used interchangeably despite their conceptual and operational differences (Bong & Skaalvik, 2003).
This paper aims to further explain some theoretically driven research question. The main objectives of the present paper are to examine structure of Croatian primary school students’ self-competence beliefs in STEM school area, where beliefs related to mathematics are especially important issue of consideration.
Existing studies do not provide a definite answer to the question whether students structure their achievements in this broad area in a one-dimensional academic self-concept or whether it is reasonable to assume the existence of separate self-perceptions, in different STEM areas. The debates in the STEM field are implicitly based on the assumption that the STEM academic self-concept is one-dimensional (Scherer, 2013), while contemporary models of academic self-concept, such as the Marsh/Shavelson model, (Marsh, 1990; Marsh & Shavelson, 1985; Marsh et al., 1988) are based on the distinction between several academic areas. Jansen, Schroeders and Lüdtke (2014) have shown that it is possible to find confirmation for both one-dimensional and a subject specific model of self-concept in the STEM field, with somewhat stronger support for the subject specific model. In their study, a strong effect of the structure of curriculum was observed. This issue is intriguing in Croatian primary schools, since the curriculum contains several school subjects that cover STEM fields.
We expected that related self-competence beliefs facets can be recognized within the STEM field as indicators of academic self-concept, which form a clear structure of self-competence beliefs in the STEM school achievement area. At the same time, we expected that the data suggest that Croatian primary school students mostly structure their beliefs about themselves in relation to specific school subject.
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