Air Force General Counsel Blog The chief legal officer and chief ethics official of the Department of the Air Force

3Jul/130

Barrier to More STEM Graduates: Science and Math Are Hard

The graduation of science and math graduates is vital to the success of the Air Force--and the United States.  Unfortunately, we have not been as successful as other countries in encouraging undergraduates to major in math and science.  Why is this?  A new study suggests that students don't major in science and math because, well, it's too hard:

Taking advantage of unique longitudinal data, we provide the first characterization of what college students believe at the time of entrance about their final major, relate these beliefs to actual major outcomes, and, provide an understanding of why students hold the initial beliefs about majors that they do. The data collection and analysis are based directly on a conceptual model in which a student’s final major is best viewed as the end result of a learning process. We find that students enter school quite optimistic/interested about obtaining a science degree, but that relatively few students end up graduating with a science degree. The substantial overoptimism about completing a degree in science can be attributed largely to students beginning school with misperceptions about their ability to perform well academically in science.

Read it all here.   This suggests that we need to focus on science and math education in high school--or offer bridge courses early in the undergraduate curriculum.  What do you think?  Hat tip to Matthew Ygesias.

Charles A. Blanchard
General Counsel
United States Air Force

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