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The Science Career Inventory (SCI): What motivates students to pursue higher degrees in metallurgy?Dan Churach
AJ Parker Centre Cooperative Research Centre for Hydrometallurgy
There is ample evidence indicating a rapidly developing worldwide shortage of young people with strong physical science backgrounds who are interested in pursuing research in extractive metallurgy with the goal of earning a higher degree by research. This lack of students threatens continued research throughout the extractive metallurgy industry and bodes of a shortage of replacement research and management personnel as the generation of staff nears retirement. The problem is of particular concern to Australia in that nearly 50% of all the export income earned per year is directly attributable to the natural resources sector. In order to acquire a better understanding of the motivating forces that induce baccalaureate holders with science and technical backgrounds to make a career choice in this area, the authors have developed a new tool, the Science Career Inventory (SCI). The SCI comprises six scales (financial, academic, relationship, lifestyle, altruistic and personal esteem) with six items in each scale. Three forms of the SCI have been developed: the Undergraduate Form, the Graduate Form and the Professional Form. This paper describes a pilot study trialling the SCI. Early qualitative and quantitative results concerning the reliability and validity of the instrument are reported.
The contention that the mining and extractive metallurgy industry in Australia supplies a great deal of the country's wealth is beyond reproach: during the 2000-2001 financial year, income from the overseas sale of metallic minerals and metals totalled Au$30 billion and that represented 19.7% of all the money Australian earned through exports (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002). In Western Australia alone, over $17 billion of revenues were produced during the 2002 calendar year (Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA, 2003). The trend of fewer and fewer students with a strong physical science background who are interested in pursuing a higher degree by research in areas relevant to the industry is equally apparent and is detailed below. The dilemma presented by a shortage of this type of research and the decreasing number of science students that feed the industry becomes apparent when one considers the value that even a small breakthrough in technology can contribute to the national good:
At the same time that the minerals industry contributes greatly to the economic wellbeing of Australia, the industry has generally spent a small percentage of its income on research. Part of the rationale for this is that in most cases, extractive metallurgy requires massive plants that are capital intensive and few look to any sweeping changes in the processes at hand. Consequently improvements based on research tend to be incremental, though often these incremental changes can be of great value. When one considers that the gold industry alone produced about $5 billon of gold in the last financial year, then an "incremental" improvement allowing only 0.1% more gold to be recovered from an ore body could result in a net gain of $5 million (eg. 0.1% of $5,000,000,000)! (Churach, 2003)If one considers the entire array of mining, minerals and extractive metallurgy as one industry, the foundations rest upon three academic areas of interest. Firstly, the specialties of geophysics and earth sciences supply the personnel needed to locate and describe these natural resources that are quite abundant in Australia. Secondly, the discipline of mining engineering concerns itself with the techniques and processes needed to remove these resources from the earth. Finally, the extractive metallurgists find, process and concentrate the ores, adding value to the product before it is offered for sale on the global market. When one considers the Australian data concerning student numbers studying these core technical areas, the diminishing tendency does not bode well for the country's economic well-being.
Bartier, Tuckwell & Way (2003) have compiled data showing the Australia-wide honours degree cohort in earth sciences during 2002 was lower than the previous 2 years. At the MSc level, students studying in this area remained fairly constant during 2001-2002, but they anticipated significant declines in 2003-2004. It was also noted that similar declines in PhD completion were expected for the earth sciences over the same time period. They go on to report that in the area of mining engineering, students working towards Bachelors and MSc Degrees have remained fairly level over the past few years, but there are significant drops estimated in PhD completions.
It can be argued that of the three "legs" that make up the mining and minerals industry, the one in greatest danger of dying would have to be the extractive metallurgists. Ian Ritchie (2002) goes so far as to speak of extractive metallurgy as being an endangered science and that it is becoming precariously close to extinction. The path to advanced study in the general field of extractive metallurgy is quite convoluted given that few students actually earn a bachelors degree in extractive metallurgy. Feeder bachelor degrees generally come from bachelor majors in metallurgy, chemistry and chemical engineering. Occasionally a qualified student will choose postgraduate work in metallurgy coming from a background in physics, mathematics and computing. In some special cases (e. g., bio heap leaching) even students with strong biology backgrounds can excel as PhD researchers studying in this area. Nicol and Woffenden (2002) paint a sombre picture on the undergraduate level, noting that Australia-wide there were in excess of 150 bachelor degrees in metallurgy awarded in 1996, but that had declined to just over 50 completions in 2001. Where nearly a dozen Australian universities offered bachelors in metallurgy a decade or more ago, only three (Murdoch University, University of Queensland and Curtin University Western Australian School of Mines) currently accept extractive metallurgy students. Moreover, the problem appears to be deeper and has earlier origins than simply at the university level:
However, of potentially greater concern to the minerals industry as well as most other technology-based industries, is the significant decline in the quality of sciences education and learning within the secondary school system of Australia. Fewer and fewer school leavers are sufficiently qualified to study science and engineering at university. Many of those who are, choose not to do so...Furthermore, this problem is not confined to Australia. There is ample evidence indicating a worldwide shortage of young people with strong physical science backgrounds who are interested in pursuing research in extractive metallurgy in particular and in science, engineering and technology in general.
The problem for all Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) Industries is between five and 10 years out from now, when the current cohort of secondary school students seek to join the workforce as professional engineers and scientists. It is likely there will not be enough to satisfy the demand. (Bartier, Tuckwell, & Way, 2003, p 34)
In the United Kingdom students enrolled in chemistry courses peaked at 4100 in 1993 and dropped steadily (save for one increase in 1997) to under 2900 in 2001. Even more, the absolute student numbers can be very misleading. When one looks on a percentage basis of the entire age group, the numbers are even worse. In 1989 some 2.7% of all UK university students studied chemistry, but by 2001 this number had dropped to about 1% (Breuer, 2002).
The United States has seen a similar decline in chemistry bachelors degrees that have steadily declined from a high of 10,873 in 1997-98. (Long, 2002) Similarly, the total number of science and engineering doctorates slipped 1.7% in 2001 to the lowest level that have been awarded since 1993. Chemistry PhDs had dropped 10.6% since 1992 (Chemical & Engineering News, 2003).
This lack of students threatens continued research throughout the extractive metallurgy industry and bodes of a shortage of replacement research and management personnel as the generation of staff nears retirement. In the final analysis, this shortage of student researchers choosing to enter the mining and minerals industry as a career led the authors of this paper to ask what motivational forces might be involved in this decline.
Parsons (1909) conducted the pioneering work in the area of career choice by classifying people as either career-decided (i.e., certain) and career-undecided (i.e., uncertain). Several decades later, Williamson's (1937) work offered evidence contradicting the then prevailing belief that one's career choice predicted academic achievement. His research went beyond Parsons' work by categorising peoples' vocational choices as very certain, certain, or uncertain. Still, this rather simplistic, either-or dichotomous model of career choice fitting all respondents into decided and undecided categories produced mixed and inconsistent results (Slaney, 1988). The human decision making mechanism seemed to be much more intricate and involved than that described by merely either-or forced choices.
It was not until the 1950s that Ginzberg, Ginsburg, Axelrad and Herma (1951) looked at career choices as being a much more dynamic process. These researchers interviewed a wide array of people from varying backgrounds and concluded that most people do not make a once-only decision concerning career choices. They argue that people generally tend to experience a developmental process that over a period of time progresses through six stages beginning with fantasy (as pre-adolescence) through interest, capacity, values, tentative choices and finally to a final, realistic stage (crystallisation).
At about the same time, Super (1953) presented his developmental theory that manifested itself in five stages: growth (childhood), exploration (adolescence), establishment (early adulthood), maintenance (middle adulthood) and decline (later adulthood). Additionally he put forward the view that "career" encompasses the sum total of all the roles one plays during a lifetime and presented the concept as the Life Career Rainbow. It was here that some might argue Super made his greatest contribution - the idea that one's self-concept has a great deal of impact on career choices and that this self concept constantly is shaped by and in turn shapes the individual's life experiences. At the end of the day, the work of Ginzberg, et al, and Super have been challenged, modified, refined and adopted by dozens of researchers, but the main contribution they all made was to put forth the idea that careers involved a great deal more than just what occupation one chose in order to earn a living. More, they all supported the notion that career selection was an ongoing process that was continually affected by the dynamics of one's life experience and constantly changing as one progressed through life.
A decade later, Holland (1959, 1995) introduced his hexagonal model that proposed one's workplace milieu consisted of six distinct environments and that individuals fell into one of six corresponding personality types. Both the personality types and the environments he labelled as realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional. In his model, there is an ongoing interaction between the individual and the environment in which certain personality types are attracted to certain environments while at the same time each environment is created to specifically attract the proper personality type.
In recent years, much of the research into career choice has gone into designing tools to better assess the direction in which the individual's vocational preference develops. In light of this, Hartung (1995) suggests that there have been two great movements in this area of measurement and refers to them as first-generation and second-generation measures. He describes the first-generation measures of career choice status as those that produce total indecision scores. By design, these instruments are not multi-dimensional and for that reason have engendered a great deal of controversy. As an example of this type of questionnaire, Hartung points to the "Career Decision Scale" (Osipow, Carney, Winer, Yanico, & Koschier, 1976), which was used to identifying a variety of subtypes of undecided people and postulated differing forms of interventions for each type of person. Hartung describes a second-generation of measures that characterises vocational indecision as a multidimensional construct. A representative example of a second-generation measure can be found in the work of Jones (1989) whose revision of the Vocational Decision Scale, the Career Decision Profile takes into account the complexity of career choices and assesses respondents along three different dimensions. The CDP attempts to measure the individual along the dimensions of 1) decidedness, or how certain one is concerning their choice, (2) comfort, or how comfortable one is concerning the status of her or his decision and, (3) reasons, or the underlying factors for being decided or undecided about the career choice.
Based on these foundations, the authors of this paper hypothesise that a retrospective study of why (the reasons) people have already chosen an occupation path (eg., a career as a researcher in the Mining and Minerals Industry) could offer insight that could be valuable in assessing the problem of declining enrolments in these areas. This paper reports on the progress of a pilot study trialling a career choice inventory, though at th e time of this writing, more data are being collected from both professional and student respondents. It is hoped that one result of this pioneering work exploring the motivational factors leading to these career choices will be a wealth of data useful to educators, industrialists and the community at large.
The extent to which the respondent perceives that their career is motivated by...
|Financial||...financial rewards and the amount of economic security the career offers.||My career assures me of a more sound financial position in the future.|
|Academic||...having a outlet for lifelong teaching and learning within their scientific field of interest.||I enjoy finding answers to questions that no one else has found before.|
|Relationship||...the relationships formed within their place of work and with colleagues of similar background and interests.||My work allows me to feel as though I am a valued member of a team.|
|Lifestyle||...the general working conditions, geographical location and day-to-day demands of the workplace.||I believe my career allows me to live the kind of lifestyle that I want to live.|
|Altruistic||...the desire to use their abilities and talents for the betterment of the general community.||The best way I can help others is through the work I am now doing.|
|Personal esteem||...a need to be recognised and respected among their peers as well as the community at large.||My career/industrial position entitles me to respect within the general community.|
In order to develop a meaningful tool that could be used to assess the motivational factors affecting career choices that lead an individual to become a scientific researcher in general and into the mining and metallurgy industry in particular, the researchers conducted numerous interviews and conversations with professionals who have already made the career choice in question, namely a science based career in mining and metallurgy. After thorough analysis and consideration, six broad areas were identified that could offer strong motivation to someone making a career choice within the mining and metals industry. Briefly, these six areas are: Financial, Academic, Relationship, Lifestyle, Altruistic and Personal esteem and are described in Table 1. The primary questionnaire consists of 36 questions with each of the six motivational areas comprising six different items. A numerical score was computed for each participant by averaging the responses given on a 5-point Likert Scale (see Appendix). An assessment tool was designed and administered as a questionnaire following ethics approval.
The sample for this pilot study was made up of people currently working primarily in the mining and minerals industry. The selection of the sample was important for this pilot study, as it had to be both pragmatic and representative. This is an unfunded project and is currently engaged in collecting data from undergraduate and postgraduate students in several states of Australia, as well as collecting more data from the professional form group so that a more meaningful data set will be available to allow better validation of the scales and items of this new instrument.
|N=31 (Though this is a very small sample, the indicative reliabilities are shown)|
The following scale mean scores (see Figure 1) are indicative of participant responses to the items. These are important as they serve as an indication of what were the motivating factors for professionals to choose the field as a career.
Figure 1: Scale mean scores for the SCI.
Figure 2 indicates the spread of responses, and signals the level to which participants responded in a like manner to the items presented. Once again, the sample is very small, but the data are encouraging to date, as the standard deviations are relatively small. This signals that the respondents were tending to answer the questions we were asking in a similar manner. This was confirmed by an inter item analysis, but given the sample was small these data were not reported here.
Figure 2: Standard deviation scores for the SCI.
Figure 3 shows the driving forces as identified by professionals. Following the figure there is a description of the items that were responded to.
Figure 3: Raw data for driving career forces for professionals.
Questions as they appeared in the survey:
As can be seen from Figure 3, there is a high degree of expectation that professionals will still be in this career in 5 years from now, that chemistry was a favoured subject, but that maths was not in question 9, but was in question 14. This anomaly may be due to the reversal of the item and participants being conditioned to respond positively to other items and will serve as a source of study in the interviews. In addition, participants knew that they wanted to be a scientist at high school level of education and that their high school teacher figured strongly as an influence on the decision to enter a science career.
For example, when asked for an opinion about what had been the greatest effect on the decision to pursue your chosen career, participants responded most strongly to positive school experiences, stemming from both primary and secondary experiences as well as early exposure to the industry via excursions as a child, or through parental career exposure to science. In addition, a significant positive response was evident where professionals had been mentored by an effective teacher or had established a positive teacher-student relationship with an effective secondary or tertiary teacher. The least supported reasons were financial reward and autonomy.
In addition there were some teacher related comments regarding a negative influence to career prospects. For example, participants were asked about why any one teacher stands out in your mind at any level of school from primary through tertiary as a NEGATIVE influence on your decision to follow a career in the metals/minerals /mining industry? A typical response was, "Yes. My Year 11 and 12 Chemistry teacher said I would not be likely to study chemistry at Uni. I proved him quite wrong. He wasn't a good teacher," or "My chemistry teacher was not very dedicated. However, he did tell me I had the ability, but I didn't seem motivated."
Even at this early point in the study, it becomes clear that motivational forces that drive people in the industry are different from the forces that keep people in the industry.
There are some generalisations that can be made even at this early stage of the research. The motivational forces that affect the individuals in this sample to choose careers in the Mining and Minerals Industry are complex. Still, interview data show what a major influence teachers can be on student career choice and attitudes towards careers. It also provides the impetus to ensure that teachers of school science are exposed to industries such as metals and mining so that they may gain a better working knowledge of what is available as a career choice for their science students.
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Breuer, S. W. (2002). Does chemistry have a future? University Chemical Education, 6, 13-16.
Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA (2003). The Bedrock of the Economy. Perth, Western Australia.
Churach, D. (2003). Universities, industry, government: Collaborative efforts support a novel approach to postgraduate science education. A paper presented at the Third International Conference on Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, East London, South Africa, January 2003.
Ginzberg, E., Ginsburg, S. W., Axelrad, S. & Herma, J. L. (1951). Occupational choice: An approach to a general theory. New York: Columbia University Press.
Hartung, P. J. (1995). Assessing Career Certainty and Choice Status. ERIC Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services. ERIC Identifier: ED391107. [verified 22 Aug 2003] http://www.ericfacility.net/ericdigests/ed391107.html
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Nicol, M. J. & Woffenden, M. (2002). The future of extractive metallurgy. A presentation given to the Parker Centre Industrial Advisory Committee, September 2002. Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia.
Osipow, S. H., Carney, C. G., Winer, J., Yanico, B., & Koschier, M. (1976). The Career Decision Scale (3rd Revision). Columbus, OH: Marathon Consulting and Press.
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Ritchie, I. (2002). The extinction of chemistry. A keynote address to the Ian Ritchie Symposium, Murdoch University, 18 July 2002.
Savickas, M. L. (1992). New directions in career assessment. In D. H. Montross & C. J. Shinkman (Eds), Career development: Theory and practice (pp. 336-355). Springfield, IL: C. C. Thomas.
Science & Technology Concentrate: Fewer science PhDs awarded (2003, January 13). Chemical & Engineering News, 81(2), 35.
Slaney, R. B. (1988). The assessment of career decision making. In W. B. Walsh, & S. H. Osipow (Eds), Career decision making (33-76). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Super, D.E. (1953). A theory of vocational development. American Psychologist, 8, 185-190.
Williamson, E. G. (1937). Scholastic motivation and the choice of a vocation. School and Society, 46, 353-357.
Tony Rickards, SMEC, Curtin University of Technology Fax: +61 8 9266 2503 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark 1 if you strongly disagree with the statement.
Mark 2 if you disagree with the statement.
Mark 3 if you have no opinion concerning the statement.
Mark 4 if you agree with the statement.
Mark 5 if you strongly agree with the statement.
|Authors: Dan Churach is the Education Program Manager for the AJ Parker Centre Cooperative Research Centre for Hydrometallurgy and a Research Assistant at the Science and Mathematics Centre at Curtin University. Dan spent the majority of his career teaching school science and IT skills on the USA Mainland, in the Hawaiian Islands and in Western Australia before completing his doctoral degree at Curtin University. In addition to his work exploring the career motivational factors that lead people to become professional scientists, his other research interests include outcomes-based education assessments, the identification of exemplary primary school science teachers and the impact of Internet applications in constructivist classrooms. He has authored or co-authored three dozen papers, articles, and school science texts as well as presenting at conferences on four continents.|
After completing his PhD, Tony Rickards moved to the University of Southern Queensland to work as an Information and Communications Technology and Pedagogy lecturer and was founding Director of ITEL, an Information Technology Enhanced Learning Centre there. He recently moved from the University of Western Australia to the Science and Mathematics Education centre at Curtin University of Technology. The purpose of his PhD was to research the relationship of teacher-student interpersonal behaviour with student gender, cultural background and student outcomes in Secondary School Science and Mathematics classes. He was the 1999 Curtin University Alumni medal winner and has presented at many international and national conferences, co-edited a book and over 30 papers. He has experience in teaching and researching in online and face-to-face learning environments in four states in Australia and has supervised doctoral and masters level students in Hong Kong, the USA and Australia.
Please cite as: Churach, D. and Rickards, T. (2003). The Science Career Inventory (SCI): What motivates students to pursue higher degrees in metallurgy? Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 2003.