Poster Title

Factors Associated with Students Leaving Quantitative STEM majors. A Case Study.

Grade Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

Biological Sciences-MSU Teach Area Bachelor of Science

Institution

Morehead State University

KY House District #

97

KY Senate District #

25

Department

Department of Mathematics and Physics

Abstract

Title: Factors Associated with Students Leaving Quantitative STEM majors. A Case Study.

Hannah E. Brewer, Department of Biology and Chemistry, Morehead State University, Morehead, KY 40351

Dr. Robert D. Boram and Dr. Wilson Gonzalez-Espada (mentors), Department of Mathematics and Physics, Morehead State University, Morehead, KY 40351

The process of selecting and changing any college major, including STEM, is a deeply personal process that is influenced by family, friends, mentors, geography, and discipline related experiences. More than half of the entering college freshmen who declare STEM majors switched out of them, especially in quantitative disciplines. This is described in the literature as STEM attrition. Many factors have been statistically associated with STEM attrition, including gender, race, high school preparation, faculty interactions, depth and pacing of college science courses, math ability, and others. This study used a case study methodology to identify what factors were associated with a college students’ decision to choose an original quantitative STEM major (physics, chemistry, space science or mathematics) and what factors were associated with a college students’ decision to switch out of their original STEM major at Morehead State University. The Office of Institutional Research provided a list of students who (a) declared a major in a quantitative science, (b) switched out to another major between 2012 and 2018, and (c) were still enrolled. The students (n ≈ 20) were asked to participate in this study via email, postal mail and face-to-face encounters, and were informed of their rights and responsibilities as research subjects. Participants completed a short demographic paper survey, and sat down for a 30-60 minute guided interview. The survey data was summarized using descriptive statistics. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using standard qualitative techniques to identify broad themes associated with STEM attrition at Morehead State University and similar universities. The study’s findings informed the brainstorming of strategies aimed at reducing STEM attrition and increasing graduation rates in these quantitative disciplines, both in regional and national contexts.

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Factors Associated with Students Leaving Quantitative STEM majors. A Case Study.

Title: Factors Associated with Students Leaving Quantitative STEM majors. A Case Study.

Hannah E. Brewer, Department of Biology and Chemistry, Morehead State University, Morehead, KY 40351

Dr. Robert D. Boram and Dr. Wilson Gonzalez-Espada (mentors), Department of Mathematics and Physics, Morehead State University, Morehead, KY 40351

The process of selecting and changing any college major, including STEM, is a deeply personal process that is influenced by family, friends, mentors, geography, and discipline related experiences. More than half of the entering college freshmen who declare STEM majors switched out of them, especially in quantitative disciplines. This is described in the literature as STEM attrition. Many factors have been statistically associated with STEM attrition, including gender, race, high school preparation, faculty interactions, depth and pacing of college science courses, math ability, and others. This study used a case study methodology to identify what factors were associated with a college students’ decision to choose an original quantitative STEM major (physics, chemistry, space science or mathematics) and what factors were associated with a college students’ decision to switch out of their original STEM major at Morehead State University. The Office of Institutional Research provided a list of students who (a) declared a major in a quantitative science, (b) switched out to another major between 2012 and 2018, and (c) were still enrolled. The students (n ≈ 20) were asked to participate in this study via email, postal mail and face-to-face encounters, and were informed of their rights and responsibilities as research subjects. Participants completed a short demographic paper survey, and sat down for a 30-60 minute guided interview. The survey data was summarized using descriptive statistics. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using standard qualitative techniques to identify broad themes associated with STEM attrition at Morehead State University and similar universities. The study’s findings informed the brainstorming of strategies aimed at reducing STEM attrition and increasing graduation rates in these quantitative disciplines, both in regional and national contexts.