Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2018

Publication Title

CBE - Life Sciences Education





First Page


Last Page




The majority of students who enroll in undergraduate biology courses will eventually be employed in non-STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) business occupations. This work explores how representations of industry in undergraduate biology textbooks could impact STEM learning for these students and their ability to apply this learning in their chosen work. We used text analysis to identify passages with references to industry in 29 textbooks. Each passage was categorized for relevance to health or environment, for implied positive or negative connotations, and for descriptions of synergy or conflict between science and industry. We found few passages describing applications of STEM learning in non-STEM business occupations and a paucity of content to support context-based learning for students aiming at business careers. A significant number of passages embodied negative connotations regarding industry. Notable passages highlighted irregular or fraudulent business practices or included simplistic caricatures of business practice. We discuss how the representation of industry in these textbooks may impact student engagement, context-based learning, the ability of students to critically apply STEM learning in industry or business occupations, and heuristics that guide intuitive perceptions about the intersection between science and industry.


Submitted Mar 31, 2017; Revised Sep 4, 2018; Accepted Sep 17, 2018

*Address correspondence to: Fred D. Ledley (

© 2018 S. M. Simon et al. CBE—Life Sciences Education © 2018 The American Society for Cell Biology. This article is distributed by The American Society for Cell Biology under license from the author(s). It is available to the public under an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License ( by-nc-sa/3.0). “ASCB®” and “The American Society for Cell Biology®” are registered trademarks of The American Society for Cell Biology.