Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Baber, Ceola Ross

Abstract

A growing imbalance in the demand for a science and technology workforce and the declining availability of a science and technology talent pool is challenging America’s world dominance in research and innovation, economic performance, and quality of life. Contributing to this imbalance is flatness in the trend of students selecting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors coupled with decreasing rates of retention in STEM disciplines. Many research studies and reports emphasize that incorporating the untapped talents of Americans who are underrepresented in STEM disciplines--African-Americans, Hispanics, and women--is necessary to increase the pipeline of STEM graduates. A synthesis of college persistence literature by Robert Reason (2009) indicates that student engagement is one of the most influential drivers of persistence, and that engagement interventions must address specific student needs within specific institutional contexts to be effective. Past research found that engagement of underrepresented STEM students has been found to positively influence their persistence, and HBCUs have been found to better engage African American students than do other types of institutions. This predictive correlational study examined the relationship between student engagement and persistence in STEM disciplines at an HBCU located in southeastern United States. The relationship between benchmark variables from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) (academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment) and STEM persistence was examined via a predictive correlational design. A non-random sample of STEM students enrolled full-time in their fourth year during spring 2011 and spring 2014 and who participated in the NSSE as freshmen was studied. While the correlation analysis did not result in significant differences in the relationship of student engagement to STEM persistence among persisters as compared to non-persisters, results of the logistic regression indicate that active and collaborative learning and enriching education experiences, along with majoring in engineering and first year GPA, are predictive of STEM persistence. There are several implications of the study for practice, policy, and future research.

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