Who Chooses To Teach Stem And Why?

Year: 2015

Author: Richardson, Paul, Watt, Helen, Pietsch, James

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The teaching profession is increasingly feminised, and suffers severe shortages in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) trained teachers. However, fewer girls and women enter or remain in the STEM pipeline, which is essential to be eligible for STEM teaching qualifications. This presentation showcases a study that profiles the characteristics, motivations and perceptions of 245 future science, ICTs, and mathematics teachers; comparing wo/men, career-changers, under/graduates, from three Australian universities against previously described general cohort profiles. Background characteristics included gender, home-language, career history, teaching specialisms, parents’ jobs/income. The Factors Influencing Teaching (FIT) Choice scale was designed to assess motivations: intrinsic value, personal utility values, social utility values, teaching abilities, “fall-back” career, social influences, and prior positive teaching and learning experiences; and perceptions: salary, status, difficulty, expertise required, and career choice satisfaction. Surveys were administered in tutorial classes early in 1st-year, to secondary STEM teacher candidates from undergraduate and graduate-entry modes. Low proportions of candidates specialised in single subject areas: science (52%), ICTs (28%) and mathematics (21%). Subject combinations were mostly among STEM disciplines (some with humanities, visual/performing arts, social studies and languages). Mathematics and ICTs attracted more men; conversely for science. Forty-three percent of future STEM teachers had parents in STEM-related fields, and 10% had parents who were teachers. Job transferability, making a social contribution, and teaching as a fall-back career motivated men significantly more than women future STEM teachers. For science, women rated working with adolescents higher than men; undergraduate men were more motivated to work with children than graduate-entry participants, and graduate-entry women more so than undergraduates. Some gendered motivations suggest different attractors for men/women to become STEM teachers at the undergraduate/graduate-entry level. Although evenly represented in other sciences, low proportions of women were entering physics, mathematics, and ICTs teaching. Motivations were broadly similar to the full cohorts of teacher education enrolments across all strands, modes and specialisms from these universities, indicating recruitment campaigns targeting those motivations should be effective, and graduates working in STEM-related careers as a source of future teachers.