Identifying Pioneers of Tomorrow: A study of the relationship between middle school students' innovator skills and STEM interests
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Lark, Courtney Erin Driggs
This quantitative survey study explored the innovator skills and STEM interests of students at a middle school in the Pacific Northwest. The purpose of the study was to determine whether a relationship existed between students’ innovator skills, STEM content and career interests, and plans to attend post-secondary education. The literature review describes an increasing need for graduates with innovator skills and STEM interests. Additionally, the current state of innovator education is shared with a focus on STEM education. Social Cognitive Career Theory and Aptitude-Treatment Interaction are presented as frameworks for consideration with regard to which internal and external influences affect student interests. This study employed the Youth Innovation Skills Measurement Tool (YISMT) and the STEM-Student Survey for Middle and High School Students (S-STEM) along with a demographic survey to collect quantitative data. The results revealed significant relationships between innovator skills, STEM content areas, and career interests. In an exploratory phase, gender and grade level were examined with respect to the dependent variables. The researcher identified several significant differences between males and females on the dependent measures. Further, eighth graders scored significantly higher on several dependent measures than did sixth graders. While there are some study limitations, the findings suggest opportunities for instructional adjustments for further development of innovator skills and STEM interests which in turn will likely increase the number of STEM career-oriented graduates with innovator skills. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed with regard to the findings and suggestions for future research are presented.|Keywords: innovators, STEM, middle school
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