the elementary and secondary teachers who impart lifelong knowledge and attitudes about science and mathematics to their students. For many, the undergraduate years are the last opportunity for rigorous academic study of these subjects.
Precollege education needs to include quality instruction in standards-based classrooms and a clear awareness that achievement in science and mathematics will be expected for admission to college. In addition, faculty in these disciplines should assume greater responsibility for the pre-service and in-service education of K–12 teachers.
Many introductory undergraduate courses in science and mathematics fields have been taught to select out the best, most committed students and discard the rest. This strategy is being questioned: Are introductory courses the appropriate place and time for such filtering? Are the students being turned away any less good than those who stay? Evidence indicates that undergraduates who opt out of S&E programs are among the most highly qualified college entrants.2 Can the United States afford to turn away talented students interested in these fields?
Some argue more broadly that all college students should gain an awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the natural and human-constructed worlds and have at least one laboratory experience. Therefore, introductory science and mathematics courses must find ways to provide students both with a broad education in these fields and with the specific skills they need to continue studying these subjects, as is the case with most other introductory courses in colleges. Students who decide to pursue non-S&E majors would then have the background and education to make informed decisions about S&E in their personal lives and professional careers.
To serve these multiple objectives, many introductory and lower-level courses and programs would need to be designed to encourage students to continue, rather than end, their study of S&E subjects. Institutions should continually and systematically evaluate the efficacy of courses in these subjects for promoting student learning.
Many of these issues are also highly relevant to students who enter 2-year colleges after graduating from high school. For example, about a quarter of the students who earn bachelor’s degrees in engineering have taken a substantial number of their lower-level courses at a community college, and nearly half have taken at least one community college course.
S. Tobias. They’re Not Dumb, They’re Different. Stalking the Second Tier. Tucson, AZ: Research Corporation, 1990; E. Seymour and N. Hewitt. Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997; M. W. Ohland, G. Zhang, B. Thorndyke, and T. J. Anderson. “Grade-Point Average, Changes of Major, and Majors Selected by Students Leaving Engineering.” 34th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, 2004. Session T1G:12-17.