Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


Academic departments in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, strive to develop in students the ability to problem solve, analyze, and to critically think about solutions to problems. Academic departments are committed to success, yet retention rates are lower than would be expected for females in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields of study, where female students are underrepresented.

The purpose of the study was to explore the perceptions of male and female traditional and nontraditional students who participated in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics STEM course during the spring 2010 semester regarding peer tutoring, and to understand why females are underrepresented and not retained at the same level as males in science, technology, engineering and mathematics STEM courses at the University of North Dakota.

The participants in this quantitative study were students enrolled at the University of North Dakota who voluntarily completed a peer tutoring usage survey. A total of 231 students enrolled in Concepts of Biology (Biol 111), Introduction to Chemistry (Chem 115), Advanced Applications of CADD (Tech 202), Material Properties and Selection (ME 313), and College Algebra (Math 103), completed a survey about their spring 2010 semester.

Five research questions searched for the differences between male and female perceptions regarding peer tutoring, a component of student retention. The independent variable was gender, the dependent variables were the factors regarding peer tutoring: academic preparedness, academic support and cost, and demographics.

Two significant differences were found: (a) females viewed themselves as less prepared for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses than did male students, and (b) females were more in favor of the costs of peer tutoring than were male students. These findings support Merton's Self-fulfilling Prophecy Theory. Female students perceived themselves as less prepared for a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics course than male students, and this perception has become a reality, since female students were not retained at the same level as male students in STEM courses.