A Model of Factors Contributing to STEM Learning and Career Orientation

Gwen Nugent, Bradley Barker, Greg Welch, Neal Grandgenett, Chao Rong Wu, Carl Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


The purpose of this research was to develop and test a model of factors contributing to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning and career orientation, examining the complex paths and relationships among social, motivational, and instructional factors underlying these outcomes for middle school youth. Social cognitive career theory provided the foundation for the research because of its emphasis on explaining mechanisms which influence both career orientations and academic performance. Key constructs investigated were youth STEM interest, self-efficacy, and career outcome expectancy (consequences of particular actions). The study also investigated the effects of prior knowledge, use of problem-solving learning strategies, and the support and influence of informal educators, family members, and peers. A structural equation model was developed, and structural equation modeling procedures were used to test proposed relationships between these constructs. Results showed that educators, peers, and family-influenced youth STEM interest, which in turn predicted their STEM self-efficacy and career outcome expectancy. STEM career orientation was fostered by youth-expected outcomes for such careers. Results suggest that students’ pathways to STEM careers and learning can be largely explained by these constructs, and underscore the importance of youth STEM interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1067-1088
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number7
StatePublished - May 3 2015


  • Career expectancy
  • Informal learning
  • Parental support
  • Peer influence
  • STEM interest
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social cognitive career theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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