Fresh minds for science : using marketing science to help school science
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The supply of scientists and scientifically literate citizens is vital for Australia’s prosperity. However, traditional approaches to inspire Australian children to choose Science in senior school and through to university have been insufficient to meet Australia’s needs for scientifically educated individuals. This study, Fresh Minds for Science, attempts to understand how students choose their subjects for study in Years 11 and 12 and how the choice of Science is influenced by this decision-making process. The study was conducted within a marketing and science framework informed by the Theory of Reasoned Action. It employed a mixed methods approach in an exploratory sequential design to examine student career aspirations and perceptions of subject choice. Research was conducted in five schools in the Sydney region. Data were collected and analysed from 10 focus groups with 50 students, interviews with 15 adult stakeholders within schools, and seven subject selection event observations. Findings from this qualitative investigation were used to construct and administer a survey to 379 students. The survey examined student career aspirations, perceptions of subject choice and contained a Best Worst Scaling component to investigate the relative importance of the 21 factors that were found to be considered by students when choosing subjects. The findings indicate that participating students accepted and rejected subjects based on enjoyment, interest and the perceived need for those subjects in their future study or career plans. They saw the principal benefit of studying Science in particular was as preparation for a stereotypical career in science. This study suggests redressing students’ narrow perceptions of Science by marketing Science as an empowering and achievable ‘purchase’ that is valuable for a range of occupations and for life generally. It also recommends that students’ perceptions of their own abilities in Science be supported during the critical time in Year 10 at which subject choice is made.
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