Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Barbara Demmig-Adams

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Knight

Third Advisor

Dr. Andrew Martin


International students continue to outperform U.S. students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), while U.S. students increasingly leave these high-demand areas. To improve STEM performance and to alleviate STEM fatigue and attrition, researchers from several disciplines have been conducting studies to determine the most effective and efficient instructional and organizational practices in these courses. This thesis identifies best practices in structuring a STEM course to promote transformation to comprehension-based learning, while fostering student success. Best practices fall within three clusters: (a) structuring a course; (b) focusing on how to teach; and (c) assessing student performance. An illustrative case study in a large introductory biology classroom is highlighted as each cluster is described. Further, recommendations are provided related to effective instructional practices to be used in STEM classes. This combined research review and case study aims to provide new or inquiring instructors with the evidence-based strategies they may need to help reduce STEM fatigue and attrition in their classes.