Values and participation in the physical sciences and engineering: a comparative study




George, Deborah Mary

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In two separate studies, with two different samples, relationships between values, and participation in the physical sciences and engineering or the humanities were investigated for university students. Overall differences by sex, and within the physical sciences and engineering by race (Chinese and white), were also examined. The first study used the Echo technique to elicit a hierarchy of personality characteristics, individual behaviours, and beliefs about the role of the physical sciences and engineering, and the humanities, in society. Significant differences were found by sex, race, and area of study. The Echo responses were then used to construct a 36 item forced-choice ranking instrument. The second study used the Echo instrument, and the Rokeach Value Survey, to measure the value priorities of students in the physical sciences and engineering, and the humanities. Significant differences in rankings by sex, race, and area of study were found on both instruments. It was hypothesized that there would be differences in the sensitivity of the two instruments to discriminate between students in the two areas of study. This hypothesis was not supported for all students, but differences were found at the subgroup level. For example, using white males and females only, the Echo instrument more accurately classified female group membership, and the Rokeach Value Survey more accurately classified male group membership. Significant differences in "traditional" females values were identified for females in science and engineering. Chinese females in this group assigned the highest ranks to family values, honesty, and loving and caring. White females in science and engineering assigned higher ranks to values of freedom, self-fulfillment, optimism, independence, and being broadminded. Few differences were found between Chinese males and females in science and engineering, or between white males and females in the humanities.



Engineering, Vocational guidance, Canada, Cross-cultural studies, Women in engineering