Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Catherine Welch

Abstract

The demand for STEM college graduates is increasing. However, recent studies show there are not enough STEM majors to fulfill this need. This deficiency can be partially attributed to a gender discrepancy in the number of female STEM graduates and to the high rate of attrition of STEM majors. As STEM attrition has been associated with students being unprepared for STEM coursework, it is important to understand how STEM graduates change in achievement levels from middle school through high school and to have accurate readiness indicators for first-year STEM coursework. This study aimed to address these issues by comparing the achievement growth of STEM majors to non-STEM majors by gender in Science, Math, and Reading from Grade 6 to Grade 11 through latent growth models (LGMs). Then STEM Readiness Benchmarks were established in Science and Math on the Iowas (IAs) for typical first-year STEM courses and validity evidence was provided for the benchmarks.

Results from the LGM analyses indicated that STEM graduates start at higher achievement levels in Grade 6 and maintain higher achievement levels through Grade 11 in all subjects. In addition, gender differences were examined. The findings indicate that students with high achievement levels self-select as STEM majors, regardless of gender. In addition, they suggest that students who are not on-track for a STEM degree may need to begin remediation prior to high school. Results from the benchmark analyses indicate that STEM coursework is more demanding and that students need to be better prepared academically in science and math if planning to pursue a STEM degree. In addition, the STEM Readiness Benchmarks were more accurate in predicting success in STEM courses than if general college readiness benchmarks were utilized. Also, students who met the STEM Readiness Benchmarks were more likely to graduate with a STEM degree.

This study provides valuable information on STEM readiness to students, educators, and college admissions officers. Findings from this study can be used to better understand the level of academic achievement necessary to be successful as a STEM major and to provide guidance for students considering STEM majors in college. If students are being encouraged to purse STEM majors, it is important they have accurate information regarding their chances of success in STEM coursework.

Keywords

Benchmarks, Gender, Latent growth model, STEM

Pages

xii, 141 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 132-141).

Copyright

Copyright © 2017 Heather Anne Rickels

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