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Self-concept profiles in lower secondary level - An explanation for gender differences in science course selection?
Saß, S., Kampa, N.

Self-concept profiles in lower secondary level - An explanation for gender differences in science course selection?

Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1-14. [836]. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00836, Open Access

One of the most powerful determinants of course selection in upper secondary level is undoubtedly students’ self-concept. Students with a high self-concept in a domain are more likely to select a course in that domain. However, according to the dimensional comparison theory, the formation of self-concept includes comparison processes with self-concepts in other domains. Regarding gender, females are less likely to choose physics and are more likely to have lower STEM self-concepts as well as lower aspirations toward STEM careers than males. In Germany, students in Grade 10 choose specific academic tracks to attend during upper secondary school. The academic track choice goes in hand with choosing advanced courses. This choice entails the decision about whether to pursue STEM subjects. We adopted the person-centered approach of latent profile analysis (LPA) to investigate the patterns of students’ self-concepts across the five domains, math, biology, reading, English, and physics. Furthermore, we investigated how those patterns influence educational choices regarding science subjects in upper secondary school in Germany. Based on a sample of 1,658 students, we tested whether the distinct profiles of self-concept in different domains in Grade 8 predicted gendered science course selection in Grade 10 as well as career aspirations in science. LPAs yielded four distinct profiles of self-concept that differed in level and shape: high math, high verbal, low overall, and high overall. These profiles were equivalent across gender. Gender differences were manifested in the relative distribution across the four profiles: females were more present in the low overall and high verbal-related self-concept profiles and males in the overall high and high math-related self-concept profiles. The profiles differed regarding abilities, choice of science course in upper secondary level, and science career aspirations.