Faculty Perceptions of the Factors Influencing Success in STEM fields

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The recent decline in the number of graduates in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) has significant implications for the nation’s economic and societal well-being (PCAST, 2012). Because university faculty members’ interactions with students—both in and out of the classroom—have a significant impact on student recruitment and retention and because faculty beliefs have a significant impact on faculty practices (Astin & Astin, 1992), we have interviewed university faculty members in order to examine their perceptions of successful STEM students. Here, we report faculty members’ perceptions of the characteristics of successful tertiary STEM students, as well as their perceptions of the major obstacle to student success in STEM courses and programs of study. While faculty perceptions of the characteristics of successful STEM students generally align with the research literature, faculty did not mention experiences or instructional strategies they could implement in their classrooms to help students develop these characteristics. The results of the current study could inform the design of faculty professional development to ensure that faculty are aware of the various ways they can support student success in STEM fields.