STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects

Early Undergraduate Research Models and Inquiry-based Interventions

Examples of undergrad research and inquiry-based learning in biology and math

STudent Retention Enhancement Across Mathematics and the Sciences (STREAMS) at Bridgewater State University (DUE 0969109) implements best practice approaches to improve student retention in biology, chemistry, computer science, geological sciences, mathematics and physics. Shifting students to an inquiry-based learning mode that can support higher level thinking and research is central to many of the STREAMS initiatives. A three-week, residential-based, Summer Program introduces sixteen incoming freshmen science majors to research with a faculty member and peer research mentors. Upon entering their first semester, “Structured Learning Assistance,” or SLA, supports students in gateway courses with inquiry-based learning activities designed by faculty, but led by peer leaders. Students participating in the Summer Program show very strong continuation rates in STEM fields, and SLA has helped significantly reduce D, F, & W grades while increasing the number of A & B grades across multiple departments. Overall, D, F & W grades have been reduced from nearly 35% of all earned grades to under 24%, while A & B grades have increased from 43% of grades to 54%.

This poster presentation will highlight some of the summer research projects conducted by incoming freshmen science majors and the inquiry based SLA models as used in biology and mathematics. STREAMS is completing its fourth year in April 2014.

The full range of grant activities include (1) a three-week, residential summer program focusing on early undergraduate research (16 participants per year); (2) course development grants and faculty development programming that promote group, inquiry-based pedagogy in introductory STEM courses; (3) peer-led, group and inquiry-oriented Structured Learning Assistance (SLA) in nearly all introductory courses (about 900 students per year); (4) improved transfer advising and recruitment through partnerships with two local community colleges; and (5) a science and math residential learning community (about 40 students per year).

In grant year 3, the freshmen to sophomore STEM retention stands at 64%, and the grant year 3 sophomore to junior STEM retention was 71%. These numbers are up from 58% and 62% (found by averaging the 5 years prior to the grant). We continue to see substantial increases in the number of students adding STEM majors at Bridgewater between freshmen and sophomore years and again between sophomore and junior years. In both grant years 1 and 2, there were 109 more sophomore STEM majors than retained freshmen, up from 86 in the four years prior to the grant. Similarly, we are seeing about 100 more juniors than retained sophomores since the grant began, up from an average near 72.
These increases reflect added declaration of STEM majors from native BSU students and a strong increase in the number of transfer students. Overall transfer numbers in the fall semester rose from 79 the year before the grant to over 130 in fall 2012. Retention of transfer students in STEM stands at 70% for fall semester, full-time transfers.

Lead Author

  • Jennifer Mendell


Name Organization
Shannon Lockard Bridgewater State University
Thomas Kling Bridgewater State University
Jeff Williams Bridgewater State University
Matt Salomone Bridgewater State University
Stephen Waratuke Bridgewater State University

Institution Information

  • Name: Bridgewater State Unversity
  • State: MA

Poster Information

  • ID: BP-005
  • Disciplinary Focus: All STEM
  • Award Number: 0969109
  • Project Year 4