Date of Award

Fall 9-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Dr. Sherry DeVore

Second Advisor

Dr. Rhonda Bishop

Third Advisor

Dr. Steven Bishop

Abstract

The number of college students choosing to major in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in the United States affects the size and quality of the American workforce (Winters, 2009). The number of graduates in these academic fields has been on the decline in the United States since the 1960s, which, according to Lips and McNeil (2009), has resulted in a diminished ability of the United States to compete in science and engineering on the world stage. The purpose of this research was to learn why students chose a STEM major and determine what decision criteria influenced this decision. According to Ajzen’s (1991) theory of planned behavior (TPB), the key components of decision-making can be quantified and used as predictors of behavior. In this study the STEM majors’ decision criteria were compared between different institution types (twoyear, public four-year, and private four-year), and between demographic groups (age and sex). Career, grade, intrinsic, self-efficacy, and self-determination were reported as motivational factors by a majority of science majors participating in this study. Few students reported being influenced by friends and family when deciding to major in science. Science students overwhelmingly attributed the desire to solve meaningful problems as central to their decision to major in science. A majority of students surveyed credited a teacher for influencing their desire to pursue science as a college major. This new information about the motivational construct of the studied group of science majors can be applied to the previously stated problem of not enough STEM majors in the American higher education system to provide workers required to fill the demand of a globally STEM-competitive United States (National Academy

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