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Title: Using Mid-Semester Evaluations for Increasing Success of STEM Students: A Case-Study
Increasing persistence and graduation of post-secondary STEM students is a topic of significant focus and research, as are strategies for identifying barriers to suc-cess and intervening to bridge related gaps. In the case of underrepresented students, there are many challenges that may impact persistence in STEM majors, many of which, while manifesting as academic failure, are not di-rectly related to academics. Thus, it is important not only to develop mechanisms for recognizing when students are in danger of failing courses, but to also establish a support structure for intervention that ascertains and addresses a variety of possible causes. This article describes a strategy for increasing student success and indicates some of the successes, some of the failures, and some of the challenges involved in conducting a mid-semester evaluation as part of a National Science Foundation Scholarships in STEM (S-STEM) project. Students for our S-STEM project were selected from juniors and seniors with significant unmet financial need primarily on the basis of academic ability with specific effort placed on supporting students from demographic groups underrepresented in STEM majors  more » « less
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Journal of STEM education
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National Science Foundation
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    Louisiana State University's (LSU) STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP) was established to increase students' persistence in first‐year, declared engineering majors (a project priority), in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors (an NSF goal), and in all majors at LSU (an institutional goal). Over 8 years, 3,097 (27%) engineering students participated in one or more STEP activities including a residential college, a student mentoring program, an introductory engineering design course, and a summer bridge camp for first‐year students.


    This paper describes the influence of the STEP activities on persistence, while accounting for demographic and academic preparation variables.


    Data collected over 8 years from first‐year engineering students include demographics, academic preparation, participation in STEP activities, and yearly status regarding major and graduation. Descriptive statistics, correlation analysis, and multiple logistic regression determine which factors significantly impact persistence in engineering majors, in STEM majors, and in all majors at LSU.


    STEP participants have higher persistence levels than nonparticipants by at least 11% in engineering, 9% in STEM, and 5% in all majors at LSU. Gender, ACT math scores, and, in some cases, ethnicity significantly impact persistence. Participation in the residential college, introductory course, and mentoring programs significantly increased persistence in engineering majors, in STEM majors, and at the university, while the summer bridge camp did not show as much influence on persistence overall.


    STEP was successful at increasing persistence in engineering and STEM majors. Specific STEP activities continue to evolve in the College of Engineering and should continue to reap positive results in the persistence of engineering students.

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