UCSC STEM Persistence Study

Project Team: Lisa Hunter, Campbell Leaper, Christy Starr, Susanna Honig, Robin Dunkin, Rafael Palomino


A grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) allowed researchers from the UCSC Psychology Dept to study student experiences introductory science courses at UCSC to understand how pedagogy can affect experiences linked to persistence.  

A survey was developed to gauge students’ experience and measure changes in factors linked to STEM persistence and career aspirations. In the first phase of the study, students in introductory biology took the survey at the beginning and end of the course.

The biology courses in the study included the “regular” large lecture format, and a set of “active -learning” biology courses that had a curricular focus on science practices (e.g. using evidence in a scientific explanation).

Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to identify relationships between students’ reported experience in courses and changes in persistence constructs. Findings indicate that students who reported “doing science” (i.e. performed science practices) within a course were more likely to report feeling recognized as scientists, which predicted increases in STEM motivation, identity, career aspirations, and course grades, especially for students from underrepresented minority groups.