UChicago Center Wins NSF Grant to Study Student Traits Leading to STEM Achievement

CHICAGO, May 17, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The University of Chicago Center for the Economics of Human Development and an international research team won a five-year grant to identify the personality traits, executive function skills, and preferences that predict academic achievement and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

A multidisciplinary team headed by Nobel Prize-winning economist James J. Heckman will measure students’ executive function skills, traits and preferences to see which can best predict performance in STEM courses from fourth grade through high school. The study will also determine how these personal attributes predict choice of college major and career.

The study will help identify age-specific windows of opportunity for interventions that promote STEM achievement and the pursuit of STEM majors. Pinpointing the attributes associated with success in STEM fields will help teachers and school personnel better identify and counsel students with strong STEM potential, and even personalize instruction to improve their outcomes.

With a grant of $1 million for the first year and expected funding of $2.5 million through 2027, the study will analyze data on traits and skills from three sites in the United States and China, as well as data from the Australian Household, Income and Labour Dynamics Survey.                                

Heckman, director of the CEHD, is collaborating on the project with co-principal investigators Stephanie M. Carlson of the University of Minnesota; Thomas J. Dohmen of the University of Bonn; and Patrick. C Kyllonen of the Educational Testing Service.

Research across several fields has identified relationships between personality traits, executive function skills and enrollment and performance in STEM courses and careers. This study will address important unanswered questions in how these attributes are most accurately measured and how they are linked to STEM outcomes.

For more information about the research project, please visit cehd.uchicago.edu.stem.

About the Center:  The Center for the Economics of Human Development at the University of Chicago conducts research that identifies and explores the circumstances under which people develop the skills necessary to thrive in the current economy and achieve their fullest potential.

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SOURCE University of Chicago Center for the Economics of Human Development