New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Motives for Choosing an Area of Expertise in Chemistry: Recommendations for Higher Education

Nele Milsch, Georg-August-University Göttingen (Germany)

Kristina Breithaupt, Georg-August-University Göttingen (Germany)

Thomas Waitz, Georg-August-University Göttingen (Germany)


The choice of an area of expertise in higher education in Germany sets the first milestone in individual profile development and plays a key role for the qualification work of the respective degrees (B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D.). Hence, the various influencing factors concerning the choice of an area of expertise should be clearly described in order to educate highly motivated junior chemists. The identification of these factors may unveil potential parameters for the optimization of university education. In addition, gender-specific factors may be unmasked and used for gender-conform education. The motivational effects for choosing an area of expertise for chemistry students have been qualitatively examined in a previous study (see Milsch, 2016). As a result, external as well as internal factors influencing the choice have been deduced, implicating a possible gender-specificity. The here presented complementary investigation examines the importance as well as the motivational effects of the individual factors, additionally considering possible gender differences. For this purpose, 142 chemistry students of the bachelor, master and doctoral programs have been interviewed using a paper pencil study. We can show that motives such as research interest, subjective level of difficulty, university education and the work environment can be (very) motivating factors regarding the choice of expertise. Furthermore, working methods and role models show a stronger influence than previously assumed (see Milsch, 2016). In addition, gender-specific influencing factors were identified. For instance, informational events can be especially motivating for women when choosing an area of expertise. Furthermore, the question whether or not family and career are compatible has rather a demotivating impact on female students’ specialization compared to their male counterparts. Moreover, the preference for interdisciplinary topics can be used to deduce a gender difference. While women tend to show greater interest in key topics such as biochemistry or chemical biology, men, on the other hand, show a greater interest in computational chemistry. As a result, recommendations for higher education can be derived to describe potential parameters for the optimization of influencing factors concerning the choice for an area of expertise and, hence, to make a contribution to gender-sensitive education.

Keywords: Chemistry, Choice, Area of Expertise, Recommendation, higher education;


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[3] Milsch, N. “Motives for Choosing an Area of Expertise in Chemistry: An Explorative Study at University Level,” in New Perspective for Science Education, Florenz, 2017, pp. 570–575.
[4] Faulbaum, F., Prüfer, P. and Rexroth, M. "Was ist eine gute Frage?: Die systematische Evaluation der Fragenqualität" Wiesbaden, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2009.

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