From Gatekeeping to Engagement: A Multicontextual, Mixed Method Study of Student Academic Engagement in Introductory STEM Courses
The lack of academic engagement in introductory science courses is considered by some to be a primary reason why students switch out of science majors. This study employed a sequential, explanatory mixed methods approach to provide a richer understanding of the relationship between student engagement and introductory science instruction. Quantitative survey data were drawn from 2,873 students within 73 introductory science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses across 15 colleges and universities, and qualitative data were collected from 41 student focus groups at eight of these institutions. The findings indicate that students tended to be more engaged in courses where the instructor consistently signaled an openness to student questions and recognizes her/his role in helping students succeed. Likewise, students who reported feeling comfortable asking questions in class, seeking out tutoring, attending supplemental instruction sessions, and collaborating with other students in the course were also more likely to be engaged. Instructional implications for improving students’ levels of academic engagement are discussed.