A common campus stereotype is the student who comes to college wanting to be a doctor, and leaves with a degree in philosophy. The student abandoning the natural sciences, for whatever reason, has become a cultural meme.
A working paper posted by two university professors this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research sheds light on the underlying causes of many students’ retreat from math and science.
The revealing research shows the vital role of universities leveraging resources to ensure their own students are prepared.
The study suggests students enter college as open to majoring in math or science as any other major, but many drop these pursuits because they believe their grade performance is threatened. Even more crucial, students’ changes in beliefs about their grade performance arises from the realization that their ability is lower than they expected — not because they aren’t willing to put the required effort into math or science majors.
The conclusion to draw is obvious: Many of our peers aren’t prepared in the areas of math and science. It’s not that there isn’t zeal — there’s just not the requisite knowledge. It also sadly suggests that students will abandon their passions simply to make high grades.