The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Higher Education Administration: Ed.D.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr. Rachel Friedensen

Second Advisor

Dr. Melissa Hanzsek-Brill

Third Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Jones

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Roseann Wolak

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

teaching and learning, STEM education, college student retention, persistence, constructivism, introductory chemistry, quantitative


Student retention in STEM majors is low. The literature is clear: poor teaching contributes to students’ decisions to leave STEM. From this I wondered if the teaching method made a difference in their choice. This study followed a quantitative, quasi-experimental research design. I compared two teaching methods, a traditional lecture (TRAD) and active learning using the Learning Assistant Program (LAP) to determine if there was a difference in student learning outcomes and persistence in STEM for students enrolled in an introductory chemistry course at a mid-sized regional comprehensive public university (RCPU). My results showed that there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups based on student performance on the American Chemical Society Final Exam and the percentage of students who enrolled in a subsequent STEM course. However, I found a statistically significant difference between the two groups when comparing Total Points Earned, and the DFW rates. LAP students achieved higher performance and a 2:1 overall pass ratio compared to TRAD students. The LAP teaching method positively influenced women and students of color with higher performance in overall grades achieved and course completion rates. The active learning teaching method that used the Learning Assistant Program improved student performance and persistence in the introductory chemistry courses and was particularly effective for women and students of color.


Many individuals are deserving of my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for the support they provided me throughout this process.

To start with my family, my best champion was my husband, Dave. It was Dave who supported me though my doctoral journey both financially and emotionally and through the day to day rigor of completing my coursework and my dissertation. Along with his valued support, I must acknowledge the support from my daughters, Michaela and Catherine, who kept me moving forward in the process. My parents, Harlan and Violet Jensen and my sister, Dawn Regnier, all contributed to my success. For my Mother’s stead-fast encouragement, my Father’s endless enthusiasm for reading my drafts, and my sister’s help with proofreading, I am truly grateful for their support to accomplish this most challenging part of my education journey.

To Dr. David Wren, a very special individual, who has been a true inspiration dedicating countless hours coaching and mentoring me through the dissertation writing process. His guidance and direction helped me formulate my thoughts and pushed me in new directions. To him, I dedicate this significant accomplishment.

For my advisor, Dr. Rachel Friedensen, I extend my appreciation and gratitude for the professional guidance, unwavering support, and personal encouragement to assist me to finish the process and grow both personally and professionally.

Dr. Roseann Wolak is also deserving of recognition for her continued support and motivation to be my best and complete this momentous milestone. I cherish the personal and professional relationship we have developed.

A thank you to all the SCSU members, the Higher Education Administration faculty members, and my committee members who provided me with their professional guidance and support.

Finally, for the perseverance, dedication, and tireless support from all the truly amazing people willing to help me through the doctoral program and dissertation writing process, I thank you. Even with all the support and guidance, the responsibility for this study was mine alone and I accept any shortcomings held within.

Jodi Laudenbach



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