FACTORS THAT AFFECT THE SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS LEARNING AND ACHIEVEMENT OF AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDENTS: IN THEIR OWN VOICES
Science, technology, engineering, and math degrees are the gateway for many careers that are still growing in this economy. However, numerous studies have documented that the United States is under producing graduates in these disciplines. Specifically, the largest groups to fall behind in these fields are African Americans. The lack of STEM degrees among African Americans is of national concern in the ever changing and rapid pace of technology today. Lower STEM degrees equate to lower degrees of innovation and also competitive innovation. The purpose of the study examined the factors that influenced the learning and achievement in STEM degree preparations among African Americans. Using a qualitative case study analysis, this study focuses on the unique stories of 20 African-American freshmen college students in the STEM disciplines. Several major themes emerged from the analysis of the data. Each of the participants initially entered the university with an established interest in science, with an expressed desire for research experience, and with an interest in exploring career options in the STEM. Through their involvement in the pre- freshman program, participants experienced a significant increase in self-knowledge and confidence recognized the existence of social and/or science communities, and either discovered or clarified career interests and possibilities. Instructional strategies and pedagogy, course placement, and students’ self-regulated learning self-efficacy also emerge. Participating in original research is one of the most powerful tools, particularly for freshmen in the STEMs. Internships and mentors also are critical. While no single factor may have a profound impact, programs combining these features can open up post secondary STEM pathways for students.