Children's perceptions of the factors that led to their enrolment in advanced, middle-school science programmes

Avner Caspi, Paul Gorsky, Rakefet Nitzani-Hendel, Zacharias C. Zacharia, Sherman Rosenfeld, Shmuel Berman, Bruria Shildhouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Toward the end of 6th grade, some bright and highly motivated science-oriented Israeli students and their parents are required to make a decision: whether or not to enrol in a non-mandatory advanced science programme for 7th graders (≈12 year olds) upon entering middle-school. In other words, for many students, entry into the STEM pipeline begins at an earlier age than previously reported and, to date, reasons for doing so are unknown. The aim of this study was to identify and model the factors that contributed to enrolment. Data collected from 7th graders in three Israeli middle-schools (N = 615) included self-efficacy and interest in STEM learning, perceived parental encouragement to learn STEM, perceived peer interest in STEM, recollections of STEM learning in primary schools and participation in informal STEM programmes. Path analysis showed that ‘self-efficacy’, ‘parents’, ‘peers’ and ‘participation’ directly predicted enrolment. Self-efficacy mediated the effects of environmental variables on academic choice. The significant effect of participation in informal STEM programmes points toward an even earlier entry into the STEM pipeline. Quantitative content analysis was used to categorise the reasons for enrolling in the advanced science programmes (N = 179). Unexpectedly, students overwhelmingly cited practical importance (‘utility value’) vis-à-vis short, medium and long-term goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1915-1939
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number11
StatePublished - 23 Jul 2020


  • Expectancy-Value theory
  • STEM education
  • academic choice
  • and gender
  • expectations for success
  • informal science education
  • interest
  • parental encouragement
  • peer influence

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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