Dissertation project Carolin Eitemüller

Investigation of factors influencing course-level choice in chemistry

Chemistry is recognized as one of the most unpopular subjects at school and is dropped by most of German students at the end of lower secondary school (Ministry of School and Further Education of North Rhine-Westphalia, 2015). In the light of a declining interest of students in science careers and high drop-out rates in chemistry at university (Heublein, Richter, Schmelzer & Sommer, 2012) one approach of current research is to better understand the decision-making process of students in order to use these findings for future support frameworks.


In this respect, Eccles and Wigfield (2002) have developed a general model on students’ decision-making process of choice, in which students’ expectations of success and various subjective task values are understood to influence students’ decisions. Subjective task values include components, which are determined by how interesting, important, useful and expensive in terms of invested time and effort a result is perceived by the students.

The main goal of this study was to investigate which motives influence students’ chemistry course-level choices at upper secondary level and which factors can be identified as predictors for academic success in chemistry. According to the expectancy-value model of Ecceles and Wigfield (2002) students’ interest, subject-specific knowledge, grades and their ability self-concept as well as their career aspirations were surveyed in a quasi-longitudinal study with two points of measurement spanning one academic year involving year 9 - 12 students.

The findings of the study indicate that students’ interest in chemistry is the strongest predictor for their course-level choice whereas students’ low ability self-concepts are mainly responsible for the drop-outs. It should be considered that students’ self-concepts often lag behind their actual performance. In addition to students’ interest and abilities their career aspirations are a powerful predictor for course-level choice in chemistry.  Regrettably, only a minority of students aim to pursue a scientific career in chemistry.


2012 - 2015


Maik Walpuski


Carolin Hülsmann


AG Prof. Dr. Elke Sumfleth, Essen



List of publications (PDF)

Bibliography (PDF)