Motivating female students in technology education: Staying and thriving on the technology education pipeline of STEM

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Vicki Knopke
Bernardo LeÏŒn de la Barra

Abstract

Learning is an active process that functions optimally when student’s motivation is autonomous. This paper will critique elements of motivation that impact on students’ engagement in Technology Education subjects with an emphasis on female students in senior secondary years of schooling.


After interpreting Technology Education and motivational factors, the critique will examine elements identified by various authors as those which motivate modern day youth to engage in non-compulsory education. In fact, the origins of personal and group motivation need to be explored in terms of how youth utilise self-values to engage in practices that schools program for them. Of particular interest are the steps taken by schools to engage females in technology centred programs. Australian data show that young female learners are not articulating through to Mathematics, Science, Engineering, or Technology (STEM) classes and in turn not enrolling in tertiary courses such as Engineering.


The critique takes a feminist constructionist view and will draw on research undertaken in senior secondary schools in 2013. Earlier studies have claimed that the artefacts to be made and freedom of choice in the learning process had the most effect on the motivation of students as participants in Technology Education. For some students these elements have affected their intrinsic motivation by expanding their reflectivity and feelings of autonomy. By providing an apparent freedom of choice in materials, techniques, and products to be made, student motivation appears to rise.


In examining the research studies on what motivates youth - values are seen to be inextricably linked to the interests and motivation of both individuals and groups. Thus, values will be explored in the context of educational settings of students in the secondary years, with a focus on Technology Education.


The implications of the findings in the paper will provide practitioners with strategies to alter the ecology of classrooms for female participants in Technology Education programs in the long term. Those strategies are not about plugging the leaks in the STEM education pipeline, but rather about building a gendered pipeline where girls feel at home doing Technology regardless of whether their school or class is co-educational or single-sex.

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