Public Release: 

PSU researchers design survey to tap students' motivation in STEM

Portland State University

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IMAGE: Ellen Skinner, Ph.D., Professor of Human Development & Psychology Chair, Department of Psychology, Portland State University. Skinner led the study. view more 

Credit: Portland State University

Researchers at Portland State University are learning more about undergraduates' experience in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes and sharing a set of survey questions that will help researchers and educators at other universities do the same.

This survey was developed by a team of researchers in PSU's STEM Equity and Education Institute with the help of instructors in chemistry, biology and physics. Published this October in the International Journal of Science Education, the survey can be used by educators, researchers and program developers to "peek under the hood" of students' experiences in STEM classes. These insights can help instructors improve their teaching strategies and reach out to students who may need some additional motivational support to perform better in challenging STEM courses.

Over the last several decades, scientists and mathematicians have helped education experts improve STEM courses at both college and K-12 levels. But previous studies have shown that success in math and science is not due solely to students' academic skills and preparation. Motivational factors -- like feelings of belonging and a positive identity as a scientist -- are also key to success in STEM majors and careers. These PSU study findings give researchers and educators some more tools to address those motivational factors in undergraduates.

"We all know that student motivation is essential to learning and success in STEM," said Ellen Skinner, a PSU psychology professor who led the study. "But in a class of several hundred students, it can be hard to get a good read on where each student is at. We think that this survey zooms in on important student concerns, like whether they feel welcome in the community of science. We are excited to help bring the student's voice to the ears of educators and researchers here at PSU and at other campuses nationally."

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The complete PSU research findings -- including the survey questions and scoring rubrics that any STEM educator can use free of charge -- are available online.

About Portland State University (PSU)

As Oregon's only urban public research university, Portland State offers tremendous opportunity to 27,000 students from all backgrounds. Our mission to "Let Knowledge Serve the City" reflects our dedication to finding creative, sustainable solutions to local and global problems. Our location in the heart of Portland, one of America's most dynamic cities, gives our students unmatched access to career connections and an internationally acclaimed culture scene. "U.S. News & World Report" ranks us among the nation's top 10 most innovative universities. http://www.pdx.edu | @PSUinfoandnews

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