Date of this Version
CBE—Life Sciences Education • 18:ar60, 1–14, Winter 2019
The instructional practices used in introductory college courses often differ dramatically from those used in high school courses, and dissatisfaction with these practices is cited by students as a prominent reason for leaving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors. To better characterize the transition to college course work, we investigated the extent to which incoming expectations of course activities differ based on student demographic characteristics, as well as how these expectations align with what students will experience. We surveyed more than 1500 undergraduate students in large introductory STEM courses at three research-intensive institutions during the first week of classes about their expectations regarding how class time would be spent in their courses. We found that first-generation and first-semester students predict less lecture than their peers and that class size had the largest effect on student predictions. We also collected classroom observation data from the courses and found that students generally under- predicted the amount of lecture observed in class. This misalignment between student predictions and experiences, especially for first-generation and first-semester college students and students enrolled in large- and medium-size classes, has implications for instructors and universities as they design curricula for introductory STEM courses with explicit retention goals.