The purpose of this study was to describe middle school students' attitudinal changes towards careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) after year-long classroom interaction with a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellow. The study utilized a mixed methods design of content analysis and constant comparative analysis for matched pre/post student responses (N = 1066) to the open-ended question: Do you think you could become a scientist (or technologist, engineer, or mathematician) like your [NSF] Fellow? Why? Initial content analysis placed student responses into one of seven response categories: remained negative; remained positive; remained uncertain; positive to negative; positive to uncertain; negative/uncertain to positive; and negative to uncertain. Five major themes emerged from constant comparative analysis of response categories explaining why students envisioned themselves becoming STEM professionals: subject area; interests and goal; self-efficacy; work ethic and learning ability; and NSF Fellow. These five themes were consistent across all response categories. The major theme throughout student responses to becoming STEM professionals was students' self-efficacy for a particular subject. From interaction with the NSF Fellow, the students developed a positive belief in their abilities and indicated increased willingness to persevere and work toward educational goals in that subject.
careers, science, technology, engineering, math, middle school