Performing a Choice-Narrative: A qualitative study of the patterns in STEM students' higher education choices

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Students’ science choices have long attracted attention in both public and research. Recently there has been a call for qualitative studies to explore how choices create a sense of fit for individual students. Therefore, this paper aims to study how science students’ choices of higher education are performed and to uncover the patterns of students’ construction of their choice-narratives. The paper is based on a qualitative study among 38 Danish upper secondary school students. The theoretical framework is narrative psychology combined with post-structural thinking. The study shows that constructing a choice-narrative is complicated identity-work. First, the students felt encouraged to identify their interests, not only the ones related to the subject matter, but also various interests that were equally negotiated in relation to each other. Second, the choice-narratives were personalised; on the one side articulated as not too predictable, and on the other side appearing realistic and adjusted to the students’ sense of self. Third, the choice-narratives were informed, validated and adjusted in the students’ social network providing the students with a repertoire of viable pathways. The study demonstrates how cultural discourses about how a proper choice is made set the scene for the students’ choices. The study raises some concerns for science education. Improving students’ interests in science alone might not lead to increased admission as several interests equally intervene. To attract more students to science, we must consider how to actively engage them in crafting their own education, as a way to support them in making personal sense.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1454-1477
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

ID: 141661638