Collaborative Research: Building on STEP to Understand Variation in STEM Entry and Persistence
This four-year mixed methods research project investigates the processes by which students select into and out of fields of study and of how projects funded by STEP impact these processes. Grounded in Eccles' expectancy value-model, the research study examines student pathways to STEM baccalaureate degrees and the impact of different types of interventions on those pathways across diverse students and STEM majors. The research focuses on the relationships among student academic preparation, subjective expectations with respect to future academic performance, objective academic performance, the tasks values students ascribe to STEM courses and majors, and interpersonal relationships from which students may draw personal and academic support. The comparison group design based on stratified probability samples of first-time first-year students from the participating institutions results in representative samples of the population of entering first-time students. The design includes two control groups and one treatment group to increase external validity: One cohort includes only STEM students who enter the university in the year prior to the start of the intervention designed by STEP Type I projects (control condition 1). The second cohort of students includes STEM students who participate in STEP Type 1 activities (treatment condition) and those who do not (control condition 2). Data include institutional student records and student responses to surveys designed for the study. In addition, the project is constructing a data infrastructure for further research by researchers and use by STEP projects.