Four-year investigation identifies precollege preparation, teaching styles, and peer influence as significant factors
An extensive new study finds that the number of undergraduates in science, math, and engineering (SME) majors drops 40 percent between freshman and senior years. The losses vary substantially by field: In the physical sciences the decline is 20 percent, while in the biological sciences--the field with the most dramatic losses--the figure is 50 percent. The study also seeks to identify some of the larger factors that lead students to choose SME majors and to eventually succeed in these fields.

Prepared by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) of the University of California, Los Angeles, the study has implications for science teaching at all levels, according to scientists and educators. But, they say, the study also suggests a potential problem for science generally. The proportion of science-literate citizens in society may shrink in the future, they say,...

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