The Struggle to Belong and Thrive

  • Dana G. HollandEmail author


Academic struggles played a role in the majority of students’ decision to switch out of STEM. They also undermined students’ belief that they had made the right choice in pursuing a STEM major and could succeed in earning a STEM degree. As described in Chap.  7, academic problems were particularly acute for students in gateway courses, but they were not confined to courses taught by “weed out” methods. They could also manifest as difficulties with STEM curricula or as conceptual problems at any point in students’ trajectories. Common problems included encountering STEM content that was “hard”—whether intrinsically or situationally. They also arose as students sought to demonstrate their conceptual understanding in assessments, and could be reflected in the grades and GPA that they earned. These struggles challenged students’ views of their competence and caused them to doubt that they “belonged” in a STEM program. A student’s sense of belonging in a STEM discipline was also shaped by classroom and program climates, most especially by interactions with instructors and peers. This chapter reviews findings about how STEM students experienced these struggles to thrive academically and to develop a sense of belonging. It also highlights particular risks that differentiate switchers from persisters.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ethnography and Evaluation Research (E&ER)University of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Center for STEM LearningUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

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