Enhancing diversity in undergraduate science: self-efficacy drives performance gains with active learning
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Ballen, C.J.; Wieman, C.; Salehi, S.; Searle, J.B.; Zamudio, K.R.
Efforts to retain underrepresented minority (URM) students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) have shown only limited success in higher education, due in part to a persistent achievement gap between students from historically underrepresented and well-represented backgrounds. To test the hypothesis that active learning disproportionately benefits URM students, we quantified the effects of traditional versus active learning on student academic performance, science self-efficacy, and sense of social belonging in a large (more than 250 students) introductory STEM course. A transition to active learning closed the gap in learning gains between non-URM and URM students and led to an increase in science self-efficacy for all students. Sense of social belonging also increased significantly with active learning, but only for non-URM students. Through structural equation modeling, we demonstrate that, for URM students, the increase in self-efficacy mediated the positive effect of active-learning pedagogy on two metrics of student performance. Our results add to a growing body of research that supports varied and inclusive teaching as one pathway to a diversified STEM workforce.
This work was funded by the College of Arts and Sciences, Cornell University.
American Society for Cell Biology
Previously Published As
CBE—Life Sciences Education (2017), 16(4), ar56