Zachary Batz

Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Michelle K. Smith

Second Committee Member

Brian J. Olsen

Third Committee Member

Jonathan Shemwell


Low persistence in STEM majors has long been an area of concern for institutions and educational researchers. The transition from introductory to advanced courses has been identified as a particularly “leaky” point along the STEM pipeline. Students who struggle early in an introductory STEM course rarely show significant improvement over the remainder of the semester. This poor early performance can damage self-efficacy and result in disengagement in the course, negative perceptions of the field, and reduced persistence in the course. This study examined the wide impact of an optional peer tutoring specifically targeted at these students who experience early difficulties in a large- enrollment, introductory biology course. Outcomes were measured using a combination of course performance, course management system data, and self-report surveys. Students who regularly attended peer tutoring were found to have increased engagement in the course, more expert-like perceptions of biology, better exam performance, and increased persistence relative to their peers who were not attending the peer tutoring sessions. Implications of these findings for universities looking to offer targeted academic assistance are discussed.