Document Type



During the past several decades we have seen an increase in the demand for individuals trained in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines (Rothwell, 2013). While this is this case, according to the Bureau of Labor, the United States will see a shortage of STEM workers over the next decade, with the demand for highly trained STEM workers exceeding the minimal supply (Rothwell, 2013). In a study of bachelor and associate students in the academic year of 2003 and 2004, only 28% of bachelor students and 20% of associate students entered STEM fields (Chen & Soldner, 2013). This study took place from 2003 to 2009, and it was reported that 48% of these bachelor students and 69% of the associate students either switched to a non-STEM major, or dropped out of school. One major aspect that was found to impact attrition rates in STEM majors is precollege experiences and preparation. This issue can be directly related to the education system and its lack in preparing today’s students to fill the overwhelming amount of positions (Educator’s Voice). This is evidenced by low test performance of U.S. students as compared to those from other countries on several STEM assessment tests, which is causing the U.S. to lag behind other developed countries in the global economy. It is well established that in order to retain students in STEM majors, interest in these fields needs to be cultivated at a young age (Dejarnette, 2016). It was reported that 94% of eighth grade students chose their courses in order to prepare for a future career. If these students do not have interest or see potential in STEM fields and careers at this age, it is unlikely that these students will remain in the field (UMASS Donahue Institute, 2011). Unfortunately, however, it is very common for students to go through school not knowing the purpose of much of their learning. Specifically in middle school science classrooms, students often perform experiments where they are given step-by-step protocols where the outcome is known. However, this does not represent how science really works. The purpose of this project is to conduct a thorough literature review of current practices in STEM education in the middle school classroom. Using this information, a module appropriate for middle school science classrooms will be developed and aligned to 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Frameworks standards. The activities in the module will be focused on practicing the real processes of science, and will also be inquiry-driven, allowing students to explore and discover for themselves. Ultimately this will allow students to see purpose in their work, become aware of the exciting world of science, become familiar with the process of science and take interest in the field. As a result, it is expected that more students will pursue STEM careers after being exposed to such modules, which will help the U.S. to improve its position in the global economy.


Biology and Secondary Education

Thesis Comittee

Jenna Mendell (Thesis Director)

Stephen Krajeski

Sarah Thomas

Copyright and Permissions

Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.