Who chooses science?
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Guided by social-cognitive theories of motivation, this study investigated academically advanced high school students’ aspirations for majoring in science in college. The participants, South Korean high school students enrolled in three special high schools for the talented, filled out a questionnaire which consisted of Likert-type questions and open-ended questions. Most of the Likert-type items were adapted from the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ). Six students also participated in follow-up individual interviews. The following factors were assessed and compared according to gender and level of science aspirations: self-efficacy, value of science, extrinsic goals, intrinsic goals, control of learning belief, test-anxiety, and perceptions of parental support. Students’ extra-curricular science activities, self-concept of their own strengths for science learning, rationale for choosing or opting out of science, and personal experiences related to science were also examined. The quantitative data were analyzed by structural equation modeling (SEM), and the qualitative data were analyzed by inductive analyses. The statistical analyses indicated that advanced students’ aspirations for science are explained to a large degree by their value of science and perceptions of parental support. The effect of parental support was greater on females’ aspirations than on males’. Furthermore, the qualitative analysis found that students’ positive experiences with science enhanced their value of science as important for their self-concept and future career. Also, parents contributed to the aspirations for science of their sons and daughters in different ways. This study provides parents, teachers, and educational policy makers with some suggestions for the educational practices and policies that can help talented children develop aspirations for science and advance in the scientific fields. Similar research in different cultures is warranted to determine how to effectively support talented students’ accomplishments in science.
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