STEM Development: A Study of 6th-12th Grade Girls' Interest and Confidence in Mathematics and Science
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Researchers, policymakers, business, and industry have indicated that the United States will experience a shortage of professionals in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Several strategies have been suggested to address this shortage, one of which includes increasing the representation of girls and women in the STEM fields. In order to increase the representation of women in the STEM fields, it is important to understand the developmental factors that impact girls' interest and confidence in STEM academics and extracurricular programs. Research indicates that greater confidence leads to greater interest and vice versa (Denissen et al., 2007). This study identifies factors that impact girls' interest and confidence in mathematics and science, defined as girls' STEM development. Using Bronfenbrenner's (2005) bioecological model of human development, several factors were hypothesized as having an impact on girls' STEM development; specifically, the macrosystems of region of residence and race/ethnicity, and the microsystems of extracurricular STEM activities, family STEM influence, and math/science teacher influence. Hierarchical regression analysis results indicated that extracurricular STEM involvement and math teacher influence were statistically significant predictors for 6-12th grade girls' interest and confidence in mathematics. Furthermore, hierarchical regression analysis results indicated that the only significant predictor for 6-12th grade girls' interest and confidence in science was science teacher influence. This study provides new knowledge about the factors that impact girls' STEM development. Results can be used to inform and guide educators, administrators, and policy makers in developing programs and policy that support and encourage the STEM development of 6-12th grade girls.