Assessing Multinational Interest in STEM

Assessing Multinational Interest in STEM [中国的]

Project Summary

Keeping America at the forefront of research and innovation is a common talking point at the highest levels of government (e.g., Obama, 2011). The US is not alone in expressing these goals, which have become a signature of global education and economic reform policies (e.g., Osborne & Dillon, 2008; Tytler et al., 2008; Woolnough et al., 1997). Recent analyses of interview (Maltese & Tai, 2010) and survey (Maltese & Tai, 2011; Tai, Liu, Maltese & Fan, 2006) data indicate that student interest in STEM coursework, informal experiences and career options plays a significant role in STEM persistence, above and beyond achievement and enrollment. While prior findings establish the importance of early development of career interest, how such interests develop and evolve over time, particularly at critical stages (e.g., choosing a major), to influence persistence remains unclear.

The project will accomplish three goals to prepare for future funding efforts: 1) advance analysis of data collected in cooperation with Scientific American magazine in 2012; 2) revise and translate a standardized survey instrument focusing on the experiences and interests that most engage individuals in STEM; and 3) collect and analyze survey data from undergraduate and graduate students and faculty at select universities in the US, China and Australia. Additionally, we will attempt to collect a set of classroom videos from STEM courses that will allow for a comparative analysis of content, instructional styles and student behaviors across countries.

To our knowledge, this work will be the first higher-education focused, internationally comparative study of interest and experiences in STEM. Results will provide US educational institutions and corporations, as well as their global counterparts, with a better understanding of the backgrounds of international students and citizens who are part of the increasingly global STEM pipeline and workforce.


Adam Maltese will lead the project. His research experience in understanding the role of interest in STEM persistence and his experience in conducting large scale survey efforts serves as the basis for the proposed project. He is currently PI on an NSF grant investigating the efficacy of undergraduate research experiences in chemistry and physics and Co-PI on two other externally funded projects on issues of student interest and understanding in STEM.

Heidi Ross will be a Co-PI on the project, overseeing survey translation and dissemination of the instrument in China. Heidi is part of the Educational Policy Studies program within the School of Education and her primary interests include education and schooling in China, and she is director of IU’s East Asian Studies Center and co-director of the ANU-IU Pan Asia Institute. Ross’s higher education research in China focuses on higher education quality, equity, and expansion; and a collaborative, on-going project with Tsinghua U, involving nearly 100 Chinese colleges and universities, assessing undergraduate education reform and student engagement.

ICSLD Panel on Surveys & Translation (Beijing, Oct 2013)