Purdue University Graduate School
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posted on 2023-05-15, 12:45 authored by Sarah Lynne Joy ThiesSarah Lynne Joy Thies


Food system STEM projects have the capacity to motivate high school students in urban schools. This study explored food as a context to engage students because everyone interacts with food on a daily basis and has had cultural experiences related to food. An integrated STEM approach in combination with a systems thinking approach challenged students to make transdisciplinary connections, view problems from different perspectives, analyze complex relationships, and develop 21st-century and career skills (Hilimire et al., 2014; Nanayakkara et al., 2017). The purpose of this study was to describe and explain the relevance students perceive in Ag+STEM content by measuring high school students' self-efficacy, intrinsic value, attainment value, cost value, and utility value after participating in a food system STEM project. The study was informed by Eccles and Wigfield’s (2020) Situated Expectancy Value Theory. The convenience sample of this study was comprised of high school students from metropolitan area schools. High school students completed a food system STEM project with a food system context. Quantitative data was collected using the developed Food System Motivation questionnaire. Data were collected through a retrospective pre-test and a post-test. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data including means and standard deviations. Relationships were explored by calculating correlations.

There were four conclusions from this study. First, high school students were somewhat interested, felt it was important to do well, and agreed there were costs regarding participation in the food system STEM project. Second, high school students reported higher personal and local utility value motivation after completing the food system STEM project. Third, high school students were somewhat self-efficacious in completing the project tasks and completing the project tasks informed by their cultural identity and experiences. Fourth, intrinsic value and attainment value motivation (independent variables) were related to personal and local utility value motivation and project and cultural self-efficacy motivation (dependent variables). Implications for practice and recommendations for future research were discussed.




Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Neil Knobloch

Additional Committee Member 2

Nathan Mentzer

Additional Committee Member 3

Hui-Hui Wang