Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)


Science and Mathematics Education


Michelle K. Smith

Second Committee Member

MacKenzie R. Stetzer

Third Committee Member

Natasha Speer


Recent national reports have cited ongoing issues in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Fewer than half of first-year undergraduate students who start in STEM fields graduate with a STEM degree six years later. Most of this attrition occurs between the first and second year of college, and students often cite instructional practices used in introductory college courses as a prominent reason for leaving. Furthermore, students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in STEM fields, including first-generation college students, leave STEM majors at higher rates than their classmates. Recent data show that the instructional practices used in introductory college STEM courses differ significantly from those used in high school science classes, suggesting that incoming college students may hold expectations that are not well aligned with actual instructional practices. To more fully understand this prediction, data were collected from online surveys given to students enrolled in large introductory STEM courses at three institutions. Throughout this project, first- week and mid-semester surveys were developed, piloted, and modified. Survey questions asked students about their expectations and perceptions regarding the teaching practices used in undergraduate courses, how class time would be spent, any differences they expected to see between their high school and university STEM courses, as well as concerns they had about this instructional transition. This project focuses on the analysis of student predictions about the percent of class time that will be dedicated to lecture in introductory STEM courses. Specifically, differences in predictions between first-generation and continuing-generation college students, and between students taking classes on a college campus for the first time and students returning to campus were investigated. Results showed that all students underpredict the percent of class time that will be dedicated to lecture in introductory STEM courses. First-generation and first-semester college students predict even less lecture than their peers. Misalignment between student predictions and actual instructional practices could impact student experiences during the transition from high school to the first-year of college. Implications for practices and approaches to future work are discussed.