Date of Award

5-2015

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Teaching

Advisor

Michelle K. Smith

Second Committee Member

Mary Tyler

Third Committee Member

Daniel Capps

Abstract

The high rate of attrition in STEM majors has long been an area of concern for education policy makers, institutions of higher education, educational researchers, and instructors. The transition between introductory STEM courses and advanced STEM courses has been identified as a particularly "leaky" point in the STEM education pipeline. As a result, many institutions have sought to improve the retention of students in introductory courses, particularly students who struggle early in introductory STEM courses. Previous studies have shown the positive benefits of academic interventions such as study skills interventions and peer tutoring when offered as part of a course or as an extracurricular intervention offered to all students. This study investigated whether or not peer tutoring could still be effective when offered only to struggling students in an introductory biology course. Struggling students were offered multiple academic intervention types, including peer tutoring, in the first year of the study, and were offered a single revised peer tutoring intervention in the second year of the study. Struggling students who attended the revised peer tutoring sessions in the second year of the study performed significantly better on post-intervention lecture exams, "correlate questions” (questions on lecture exams that were similar in content to questions seen in the revised peer tutor sessions), and persisted in the course at a higher rate than students who did not attend the sessions. The implications of the study, possibilities for future improvements to the program, and the benefits of using a similar program at peer institutions are discussed.

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