Comparison of Grit Between STEM and Non-STEM College Students
Chen, James Yun-Jong
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CitationChen, James Yun-Jong. 2019. Comparison of Grit Between STEM and Non-STEM College Students. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractGrit, or passion and perseverance in pursuing long-term goals, is a non-cognitive factor positively related to age and education level, and inversely related to frequent career changes (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007; Duckworth & Quinn, 2009). It is less clear, however, whether undergraduate students in the midst of college study show more grit the further along they are in their program. Furthermore, for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), low within-major grades, concerns over ill-preparedness after high school, and lack of confidence in laboratory skills, time management, and maintaining enthusiasm, may contribute to differences in grit between STEM and non-STEM majors during the early years of study (King, 2015; Otrel-Cass, Cowie, & Campbell, 2009; Seymour & Hewitt, 1997). With greater rates of students switching from STEM to non-STEM majors than in the opposite direction, despite little difference in grades between STEM majors who switch and those who persist, it seems that STEM majors with higher grit may remain in STEM programs, while those with lower grit may accumulate in non-STEM programs (Ackerman, Kanfer, & Calderwood, 2013; Brainard & Carlin, 1998; Kokkelenberg & Sinha, 2010; Seymour & Hewitt, 1997; Thompson & Bolin, 2011). Differences in STEM versus non-STEM grit also may depend upon whether social and behavioral science disciplines, and health science disciplines, are included in STEM (Chen, 2013; Langdon, McKittrick, Beede, Khan, & Doms, 2011; National Science Board, 2015, 2016; U.S. Census Bureau, 2014, July 10).
The goal of this study is to test the following hypotheses: 1) undergraduates report increasing grit in going from freshman to senior level; 2) undergraduate STEM majors report lower grit than non-STEM majors early in college, but higher grit than non-STEM majors later in college; and 3) this difference is increased when social and behavioral sciences or health sciences are considered STEM, and decreased when considered non-STEM. Subjects for the study were undergraduate college students recruited through Mechanical Turk ("Amazon Mechanical Turk [Website]," 2018), as well as at a Pacific Northwest community college through posting of flyers, announcements in class, and general calls for participation via college email. Through online self-report, participants completed the eight-item Short Grit (Grit-S) Scale (Duckworth & Quinn, 2009), while also providing GPA and major field of study by self-report.
In general, this study finds that 1) four-year undergraduate subjects show higher scores in total Grit-S and the Consistency of Interest grit dimension when upper division (junior, senior) compared to lower division (freshman, sophomore), while community college students show higher Consistency of Interest when sophomore compared to freshman. Also, 2) STEM students generally show lower total Grit-S and Consistency of Interest compared to non-STEM students throughout college, but higher scores in the Perseverance of Effort grit dimension in the upper division. Additionally, 3) when considered STEM rather than non-STEM, health science students generally narrow the difference between STEM and non-STEM S-Grit and Consistency of Interest at the lower division, while social science students generally narrow that difference at the upper division.
Findings from this study will help post-secondary educators identify academic disciplines where persistence is more highly correlated to grit than other disciplines. Educators then can focus on modifying those identified programs, such as through academic and career advising, tutoring services, and teaching methods that may raise student engagement (e.g., use of internet-based components, in-class poll-taking activities, and in-class group exercises), to better address student grit levels and match students to programs of best fit (Brint, Cantwell, & Saxena, 2012; Community College Research Center & American Association of Community Colleges, n.d.; Gasiewski, Eagan, Garcia, Hartado, & Chang, 2012; Maltese & Tai, 2011).
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37364572