STEM for All (2016-2017)

Background

This project is motivated by the continued under-representation of women and minority students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors. Even among women and minority students who do enter college intending to major in STEM, there is a relatively high attrition rate after introductory courses. The way in which introductory STEM courses are taught has been identified as one contributing factor to the low retention rates of women and minority students. In particular, introductory STEM courses are viewed by many students as being alienating, competitive and focused on weeding out; personal connections are lacking. Despite this finding from almost twenty years ago, introductory STEM courses continue to be taught mainly through lectures, which tend to prevent personal connections in the classroom. At the same time, a student’s self-efficacy—the feeling that one can succeed in a task or major—is found to play an important role in the retention of under-represented groups. Preliminary findings suggest that the use of active-learning techniques in the classroom can foster students’ self-efficacy.

Project Description

This project team will expand on research conducted by the Bass Connections STEM for All team in 2015-2016 by 1) analyzing the data collected in the first phase of the study; 2) considering specific types of active learning to figure out which are most effective; and 3) further developing theories regarding how race and ethnicity relate to active learning and self-efficacy. Overall, the goal of the project is to determine best practices for introductory STEM courses to increase retention of women and minorities through increasing the self-efficacy of these historically marginalized groups in STEM.

Team members will begin with preparatory work over the summer of 2016, then participate in workshops in the fall to learn or review quantitative and qualitative research methods. They will analyze data from the previous project, participate in workshops to learn more about critical race theory; develop theories in more detail regarding impacts of race and ethnicity in relation to active learning and self-efficacy; re-examine data with an emphasis on exploring the roles of race and ethnicity; and generate a preliminary report of the results concerning active learning in general and in relation to gender, race and ethnicity. In the spring team members will prepare additional experiments to determine which specific types of active learning have largest effects on self-efficacy; conduct experiments; analyze data from new experiments; and produce a final report on results and recommendations for best practices.

Anticipated Outcomes

The team will produce a report that outlines best practices for introductory STEM courses to improve retention of women and minorities.

Timing

Summer 2016 – Spring 2017

Crediting

Independent study credit available for fall and spring semesters; summer stipend

See earlier related team, STEM for All (2015-2016).

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel, Trinity - Statistical Science*
Genna Miller, Trinity - Economics*

Graduate Team Members

Aarthi Sridhar, Pratt - Civil and Environmental Engineering

Undergraduate Team Members

Brigid Burroughs, Psychology (AB)
Young Hoo (Andy) Cho, Mathematics (AB), French Studies (AB2)
Amanda Levenberg, Statistical Science (BS)
Jennifer Ling
Katharyn Loweth, Int Comparative Studies (AB)

* denotes team leader

Status

Active