Date of Award

2005

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Vaille Dawson

Abstract

What has become apparent in recent years is the lack of upper secondary students choosing science related subjects in their final years of schooling. Even of those students who choose science subjects to study in Years 11 and 12 in Australia, many tend to choose non-science pathways for tertiary education options (department of Education, Science and Training, 2003). This is worrying trend, given the numbers of science professionals and teachers required in the new age of technology. By investigating a sample of Western Australian Year 12 students that study any science related subjects, it is expected that there may be some underlying factors that can be identified that play important roles in their career aspirations. Previous research suggests that these factors will most likely be a combination of social, environmental and individual influences. Science learning experiences, albeit positive or negative, also most certainly determine an individual’s interest in science. It is important to understand why science is failing to capture the interest of our best students, who potentially could contribute intellectually to the future of Australian science. A sample of five secondary metropolitan schools was involved in the collection of data. Using a qualitative case study research method, Year 12 science students, aged 16 to 17 years, were surveyed on aspects of career aspirations and experiences in science. Focus groups from each school participated in a narrative inquiry with the author to further probe their thoughts about career choices in relation to science learning experiences. Staff involved in helping students with their career decisions such as Career Advisors, Year 12 Coordinators and science teachers were also interviewed. In summary, it can be noted, that whilst many of our Year 12 science students are reported high levels of enjoyment of science, there is significant room for improvement. Teachers are seen as a vital link in fostering students’ enjoyment of science, and need to be able to teach science in a relevant fashion, enabling students to understand and to be able to explain the concepts of science. Teachers also have an important role to play by identifying the range of careers that scientific knowledge will support. The study found that personal interest and academic ability are significant factors that influence the career aspirations of Year 12 students, it must also be acknowledged that parental influences also have a large influence on career aspirations of Year 12 students, as well as a range of other factors that will be discussed in the body of this research. The choices of university versus TAFE continue to be an issue, with the majority of students opting for university courses even when not academically able to fulfil the course requirements. Career counsellors also need to play a more active role in helping Year 12 students with decisions by being more readily accessible with relevant information, as this was one criticism of Year 12 students that participated in this research. In conclusions, it is important to note that a greater priority needs to be given to developing the quality of secondary science, and education about career pathways in science. It is very important that all students experience a science education that will make a difference in their lives whilst fostering scientific literacy. It is also important, as a society, to attract our best young minds into science as this will only endeavour to increase the competitiveness of Australian science (Goodrum, Hackling & Rennis, 2001).

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