A Social Cognitive Approach to Understanding Engineering Career Interest and Expectations among Underrepresented Students in School-Based Clubs

  • Sandra Dika University of North Carolina-Charlotte
  • Jaquelina Alvarez
  • Jeannette Santos
  • Oscar Marcelo Suárez
Keywords: K-12 engineering education, social cognitive career theory, underrepresented students


Interest in engineering at early stages of the educational career is one important precursor to choosing to study engineering in college, and engineering-related clubs are designed to foster such interest and diversify the engineering pipeline. In this study, the researchers employed a social cognitive career theory framework to examine level of interest in studying engineering and expected educational attainment among underrepresented low-income middle and high school students participating in materials science and engineering (MSE) clubs. Questionnaire data were collected from over 200 MSE club participants in low-income public middle and high schools in Puerto Rico. The results indicate that perceived value of engineering is useful in predicting career interest among underrepresented middle and high school students; however, traditional predictors of educational interests and attainment (gender, mother’s education, parent expectations) exert the strongest influence on engineering interest and attainment expectations.

Author Biography

Sandra Dika, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
Assistant Professor - Research Methods, Department of Educational Leadership