July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Educational Research and Methods
Prior studies show that most college students experience several challenges in STEM courses (e.g., ). Most of these challenges are due to contextual factors (e.g., study settings) impacting students' learning experiences. However, in existing studies, the primary focus is often placed on students' experiences and attitudes based on instruction and instructional strategies (e.g., ), with less emphasis on students' learning needs and expectations of the courses and academic challenges. Considering the role of other factors in students' learning experiences, we focused on understanding students' experiences in STEM courses in an exploratory manner. In this qualitative study, we specifically explored what challenges students experience while studying for their classes? And what actions do they take to mitigate those challenges? We collected data from two institutes located in the Midwest, USA. Thirty students at various levels of their degree programs (e.g., freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior, or graduate students) participated in the study. We collected data using an open-ended questionnaire, asking students to reflect on challenges and mitigation strategies. After students responded to the questionnaire questions, we divided them into seven focus groups, comprising five groups of four students and two groups of five students. We analyzed students' questionnaire data using thematic analysis and triangulated the results using focus group discussions. Students described that two factors could describe their positive or negative course experiences. These include 1) personal factors, such as study environment, interest in course, procrastination, or courses out of major contribute towards students' challenges, and 2) course-related factors, such as course organization issues, lack of practice opportunities, professor's pace while describing concepts, lack of resources, an overwhelming amount of material, and little explanation of conceptually challenging concepts in STEM courses. Also, the language barrier for international students was one of the challenges that limit their understanding of complex concepts. Furthermore, students described their strategies to focus on and organize their thoughts and mitigate their challenges. The common strategies included using online resources such as YouTube videos, seeking help from instructors and peers, organizing their understanding with notes, and comprehending the concepts' real-life application. This study helps in understanding students' learning needs who are at different stages in their degree programs. These results could help instructors design a better student-centered curriculum, course activities, and learning environment aligned with course learning objectives.
Anwar, S., & Butt, A. A., & Menekse, M. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Challenges and Mitigation Strategies in STEM Courses: Students' Perspectives Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38127
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