New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Motives for Choosing an Area of Expertise in Chemistry: An Explorative Study at University Level

Nele Milsch, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry Education, Tammannstrasse 4, D-37077 Göttingen (Germany)

Thomas Waitz, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry Education, Tammannstrasse 4, D-37077 Göttingen (Germany) (Germany)


Studies have shown that compared to other scientific and technical disciplines gender research in chemistry is lacking systematic data collection concerning preferences of subject contents and methods [1, 2]. Only a study by Ramm (2008) has intensively researched the subject choices at university level [3]. It was shown that the decisions for studying a scientific subject were guided by different motives such as social backgrounds and the participation in advanced courses while still in school. Additionally, many students argue that their talents and professional interests were essential factors [3]. However, specific motives which affect the choice of an area of expertise while studying chemistry have not been identified yet, although they may represent a possible parameter for the optimization of offered courses at university level.

In this contribution, first scientifically sound results regarding the motives for choosing an area of expertise will be presented. Within an exploratory study eight doctoral students (4 female, 4 male) between the ages of 25-27 were interviewed retrospectively. It was shown that motives such as research interests, work environment during the thesis preparation, role models and social orientation in the near social environment as well as the subjective level of difficulty are of paramount importance for a reasoned choice.

All the identified motives were correlated in a complex manner, showing their mutual influence in a trade-off between external and internal factors. Particularly, the research interest as an internal factor plays an essential role, although there is evidence that it might be strongly influenced by external factors such as working environments. Furthermore, the motives were examined concerning gender-specific differences. It was shown that female doctoral students chose more formal formats (e.g. information events) during their decision-making process. Male doctoral students, however, rather follow role models and social orientations. The description of correlations between these motives and the identification of gender-specific differences indicate a potential parameter for the optimization of science education at the university level and may ensure a gender-appropriate education.


[1] Bauer, R. “Chemie: Das Geschlecht des Labors - Geschlechterverhältnisse und -vorstellungen in chemischen Verbindungen und Reaktionen”, in Handbuch Frauen- und Geschlecherforschung: Theorie, Methoden, Empirie, R. Becker and B. Kortendiek, Wiesbaden, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2008, pp. 852–858.
[2] Weller, I. “Geschlechterforschung in der Chemie. Spurensuche in der Welt der Stoffe”, in Geschlechterforschung und Naturwissenschaften: Einführung in ein komplexes Wechselspiel, S. Ebeling and S. Schmitz, Wiesbaden, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2006, pp. 117–137.
[3] Ramm, M. “Das Studium der Naturwissenschaften: Eine Fachmonographie aus studentischer Sicht”, Bonn, Berlin, 2008.
[4] Stöger, H., Ziegler, A., Heilemann, M. "Mädchen und Frauen in MINT: Bedingungen von Geschlechterunterschieden und Interventionsmöglichkeiten", Berlin, LIT Verlag, 2012.
[5] Döring, N., Bortz, J. "Forschungsmethoden und Evaluation in den Sozial- und Humanwissenschaften", Berlin, Heidelberg, Springer-Verlag, 2016.

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