Publication Date

2014

Abstract

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics university majors are critical pathways toward prestigious careers, yet women are still underrepresented in many of these domains. In this chapter, we review the role that self-beliefs play in the development of educational aspirations and attempts to realize those aspirations at the end of secondary school. In particular, we use the internal/external frame of reference model to explore the potential of achievement and self-concept profiles as predictors of university major aspirations and attainment as one possible explanation for gender differences in these domains. After reviewing previous research in this area, we provide a research example using a large longitudinal database from Germany (N = 1,881). Results suggest that (a) high math achievement and self-concept predicted math-intensive university major choice and lower likelihood of entering verbal-intensive majors (and vice versa); (b) there appeared to be a continuum of university majors such that strong mathematics achievement and self-concept profiles predicted entry into hard sciences, while the opposite profile predicted entry into the humanities with biology and medicine displaying more mixed patterns; and (c) after controlling for achievement and self-concept there were still important gender differences in university majors. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

School/Institute

Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

Document Type

Open Access Book Chapter

Access Rights

Open Access

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Education Commons

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