A comparative analysis of students' satisfaction with teaching on STEM vs non-STEM programmes

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Recent Higher Education Funding Council research echoes previous findings that student satisfaction scores differ between subject areas (HEFCE, 2011). However, there remains a paucity of research attempting to account for this, and these differences have only been reported for final-year student satisfaction. It is unclear at what stage during a study programme differences in satisfaction might emerge, and satisfaction of firstyear students is of particular interest because of its association with student progression and retention (Tinto, 2007). Exploratory analyses of first-year students’ responses to National Student Survey (NSS) questions (N=1180) revealed that there were significant differences in students’ perception of teaching and available resources depending on whether they were enrolled on a STEM subject course or not. Perhaps unsurprisingly (given funding council bands) the STEM students were more likely to agree that they had access to adequate resources. However, the non-STEM students were more likely to agree that their teachers were good at explaining material and were enthusiastic about their topic. Furthermore, the differences in the perceptions of teaching experienced by STEM versus non-STEM students varied as a function of sex of the student. The implications of these findings are that although the experience of STEM students may be bolstered by access to resources, their experience of teaching and learning (and particularly that experienced by males on STEM courses) is less satisfactory than that of non-STEM students. This finding is of particular interest in light of the increasing use of student satisfaction data to inform league tables and students’ degree choice. Furthermore, these data challenge stereotypes of the experiences of males and females in STEM disciplines and have implications for how STEM teaching practitioners approach the learning experience of their students.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology Teaching Review
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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