STEM for All (2015-2016)

How does active learning impact students’ self-efficacy in introductory science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses?

Motivated by scientific findings, this interdisciplinary research project investigated how active-learning techniques in introductory STEM courses affect students’ self-efficacy and the impact that this may have on retention rates.

Studies have shown that women and minorities generally have lower baseline STEM self-efficacy levels than men and white students. Active-learning techniques may be especially important for increasing retention rates of these under-represented groups.

The team began by researching the active learning process and summarizing relevant information about the factors involved in certain groups switching out of STEM majors. Women are 1.51 times more likely than men to switch from STEM majors even when controlling for academic ability, among other factors. Women and men attribute the causes of their performance in different ways: women generally report luck as a greater influence on their success and are significantly more dissatisfied with their failures than men are.

Team members took a qualitative research methods workshop. Beginning with data analysis done by the National Girls’ Collaborative Project, the team tracked how men and women differently handled academic obstacles.

Next they conducted four focus groups with male and female undergraduates in Trinity and Pratt to investigate why female and minority students attending Duke are switching out of STEM majors. Students completed a screening survey and were sorted into focus groups if they were eligible. They participated in guided discussions with small groups of peers about their experiences in introductory STEM courses at Duke and how those courses affected their decision either to continue with STEM or switch to a different major.


Fall 2015 – Spring 2016

Team Outcomes

EHDx Talks (presentation by Brigid Burroughs, Jennifer Ling, Camila Vargas and Jaslyn Zhang at the Nasher Museum of Art, April 13, 2016)

STEM for All (project team website)

STEM for All: Focusing on Retention, Active Learning and Lectures (poster)

This Team in the News

Bass Connections Students Report on Education Research

Jaslyn Zhang, Statistical Science and Computer Science ’17

Jennifer Ling, Class of ’18

After selecting majors, women are 50 percent more likely than men to switch out of a STEM major, even when controlling for academic ability. So clearly, the issue of a homogenous population among STEM majors is a systemic one. —Brigid Burroughs

See related team, STEM for All (2016-2017) .

Team Leaders

  • Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel, Arts & Sciences-Statistical Science
  • Genna Miller, Arts & Sciences-Economics

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Brigid Burroughs, Psychology (AB)
  • Jennifer Ling, Evolutionary Anthropology (BS)
  • Camila Vargas, Interdept Psych/VisMediaSt(AB)
  • Jiaqin (Jaslyn) Zhang, Statistical Science (BS), Computer Science (AB2)