National Numeracy Network > QRurrent Events > Past Events > NSF Numeracy Projects Supporting QL in Education > NSF-Supported Project Profiles > Enhancing Success in STEM by Building Skills and Intervention

Enhancing Success in STEM by Building Skills and Intervention

Alicia P. Thomas, Subhash C. Bhatia, Lycurgus L. Muldrow, and John H. Hall, Jr.
Morehouse College - Funding provided by NSF STEP (Grant # 0756918) and HBCU-UP

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With NSF support, one of our main objectives is to develop a Scientific Literacy course at Morehouse College. This program will identify at-risk students in their freshman year and then provide these students with skills that are necessary to overcome stumbling blocks in the majors. Skills such as quantitative literacy and critical thinking will be taught to these students in a one-hour credit/semester, three semester Scientific Literacy course designed for STEM majors. We are just in the first six months of a five year project. STEP newsletter (Acrobat (PDF) 555kB May1 09)

Project Goals


The main goal of the project is to increase the retention rate of STEM majors at Morehouse College. The overall objectives of the project include:

  1. Identify at-risk STEM students in their freshman year to enroll in the Scientific Literacy course.

  2. Develop scientific reasoning, quantitative literacy, and personal/professional future building skills.

  3. Develop critical thinking skills through quantitative literacy exercises.

The specific objectives of the quantitative literacy include:

  1. To enhance students' understanding of mathematical skills.

  2. To increase students' ability to solve problems.

  3. To develop students' skills in writing the solution to problems.

  4. To improve students' performance in science courses.

Project Design/Elements

Scientific Literacy Course In the Scientific Literacy course that will be offered in the fall of 2009, students will be divided into four separate groups (classes) of approximately 30 students each. Each group will represent a different set of skills that the students may need to develop as determined by the pre-test. The class period will be divided between the instructor and small Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) subgroups of no more than eight students. These subgroups will then participate in quantitative literacy, guided-inquiry exercises designed to challenge the students in a way to develop scientific and critical thinking skills.

Evaluation and Assessment Strategies

Qualitative and quantitative measures will allow for the development of a goal based assessment plan. Designing of an evaluation matrix to address program objectives will include formative and summative assessments.

Products, Key Findings, Publications

The quantitative literacy component of the Scientific Literacy course was offered in a pilot not-credit course in the 2007- 2008 HBCU-UP Pre-Freshman Summer Science Bridge program. Pre- and post-tests were given to students in the program. Analysis of these data showed that all students performed better on the post-test than on the pre-test. Eighty percent (80%) of the students showed improvement of 15-38% in test scores. It is predicted that the at-risk students taking Scientific Literacy will have a significantly higher post-test due to the added incentive of being graded for a credit course.

The implementation of quantitative literacy activities during the summer bridge program showed improvement in the scores of the participants. A longitudinal study is being carried out to assess the impact on the performance of the participants in the STEM courses.


  1. Assessment Test
  2. Problems
  3. Manual for Quantitative Literacy