Role model and prototype matching: Upper-secondary school students’ meetings with tertiary STEM students
Previous research has found that young people’s prototypes of science students and scientists affect their inclination to choose tertiary STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Consequently, many recruitment initiatives include role models to challenge these prototypes. The present study followed 15 STEM-oriented upper-secondary school students from university-distant backgrounds during and after their participation in an 18-months long university-based recruitment and outreach project involving tertiary STEM students as role models. The analysis focusses on how the students’ meetings with the role models affected their thoughts concerning STEM students and attending university. The regular self-to-prototype matching process was shown in real-life role-models meetings to be extended to a more complex three-way matching process between students’ self-perceptions, prototype images and situation-specific conceptions of role models. Furthermore, the study underlined the positive effect of prolonged role-model contact, the importance of using several role models and that traditional school subjects catered more resistant prototype images than unfamiliar ones did.
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