Inquiry and Active Learning: Funded Projects
The STEM Center of Excellence for Active Learning has sponsored faculty-led projects to advance inquiry and active learning and transform pedagogy.
Project Profile: Tiered and Peer Mentoring to
Develop Non-Cognitive Skills
Project Team: Angela White (Principal Investigator) and Co-Principal Investigators: Kelsie Bernot, Tanya Pinder Malloy, Phyllis Ford-Booker, Checo Rorie, Gregory Goins, and Catherine White
Historically, a large number of students underperform in the sciences, specifically in introductory science courses (Johnson, 2014). In response to this widespread knowledge of the challenges students experience in these beginning courses, we redesigned our introductory biology, chemistry and student success courses so that they promoted the development of stronger cognitive skills, learning strategy use, and student engagement.
Despite some improvement in the cognitive processing of our students, we have not seen a measureable improvement in student achievement and persistence within our curricula. At another point along the science spectrum, even upper level students within our Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology programs tend to experience challenges with courses that require very sophisticated critical thinking skills.
We seek to gain greater insight into why students who are in the same learning situations and provided with the same academic support achieve significantly different degrees of academic success. Because the general cognitive ability of our students does not effectively predict their success within our curricula, we posit that there must be non-cognitive factors that influence the science achievement of our students.
Within an explanatory sequential mixed methods design (QUAN -> qual), using Likert surveys and interviews, we assessed students’ science self-efficacy beliefs, motivation, mindsets, test anxiety and grit. Moreover, we explored the extent to which a novel intervention, group life coaching, influenced the development of the aforementioned factors. Further, we focus on how students perceive life coaching impacted their science self-efficacy beliefs, motivation, mindsets, and grit.
Our study was guided by several substantive theories: social cognitive theory, motivation theory, positive psychology, Dweck’s theory of mindset, and Duckworth’s theory of grit.
The purpose of this study was two-fold. The first goal was to assess and improve non-cognitive skills of students taking introductory Biology 101, Chemistry 106, and Neuropsychology 565. In order to assess student motivation, scientific self-efficacy, grit, test anxiety and fixed/growth mindsets we administered the MSLQ, MSQ-II, Self-efficacy scales (modified for each discipline), CAEQ, Grit-Short scale, and the STAI. With regards to enhancing the development of these factors, several groups of students participated in six-weeks of direct group life coaching with a certified life coach.
The second goal was to increase the capacity to improve non-cognitive skills in future students through a tiered mentoring system of faculty and student peer-mentors. To build capacity for non-cognitive skills training, we used a tiered mentoring approach to train faculty in non-cognitive skill development through two professional development workshops.
On February 3, 2016, Dr. John Nietfeld facilitated a workshop entitled “From Facilitators to Transformers: Developing Essential Non-Cognitive Skills to Promote Student Success, which exposed faculty to both theory and practical applications.
On February 26, 2016, Ms. Schenika Silver facilitated a faculty workshop entitled “Life Coaching Skills for Effective Student Advising”, as well as a student workshop entitled “Life Coaching Skills for Effective Leadership and Mentoring”. Both of the life coaching sessions were designed to equip faculty and students with various life coaching tools that may be employed during faculty-advising or peer-advising sessions.