How students choose their subjects: a self-determination perspective on subject cluster choice.
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A shortage of highly skilled workers in STEM-fields has been predicted across Europe. One possible reason for this is a relatively low enrolment rate in tertiary STEM education. This is a subject on which descriptive research exists, but no studies have been found regarding its mechanisms. The present study investigates the Subject Cluster Choices of Dutch 9th grade students, a key decision that is expected to provide a first step in elucidating the enrolment problem. Student motivational drives are the subject of this investigation. A case-study, mixed methods approach is adopted, using questionnaires, classroom observation and semi-structured focus group interviews. Four classes from the same medium-sized school were studied, leading to a sample of 121 students aged 14-15. Students were shown to be predominantly autonomously motivated. Controlled motivators were shown to be important as tiebreakers when motivation was equal. Further study should be focused on expanding the reported results as well as longitudinally investigating motivational profiles of students.