Enhancing Diversity in Undergraduate Science: Self-Efficacy Drives Performance Gains with Active Learning

CBE Life Sci Educ. 2017 Winter;16(4):ar56. doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-12-0344.

Abstract

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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Performance*
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups / education
  • Perception
  • Problem-Based Learning*
  • Science / education*
  • Self Efficacy*