June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
October 19, 2019
NSF Grantees Poster Session
Students frequently struggle in first year engineering and cognate classes, posing challenges to timely completion of the degree and potentially contributing to attrition from engineering majors. The goal of our grant (NSF EEC-[Number to be added in final version]) is to examine whether helping students reflect on performance early in the course would improve student outcomes. In particular, we examined counterfactual thoughts, thoughts about “what might have been.” These thoughts contribute to causal reasoning and play an important role in making plans for the future. Additionally, we examined behavioral intentions, specific plans for future actions in the course, which research has also shown improves student outcomes.
After the first exam in a large-enrollment class taken by first-year engineering majors, 290 students were randomly assigned to either generate counterfactuals about what they personally could have done differently that would have resulting in doing better on the exam (vs. describe their actual performance) and to either generate intentions about what they could personally do to improve their performance for the remainder of the semester (vs. describe their expectations for the remainder of the semester). Students also reported their exam grade. At the end of the semester, instructors provided the final course grade.
We examined the effects of the intervention conditions by regressing final grade onto the counterfactual condition, intention condition, and the standardized value of the exam grade and all possible interaction terms. This revealed no significant effect of either intervention condition, nor any significant interaction involving either intervention condition.
Thus, in the current study, neither reflecting on thoughts about how one could have done something different to improve performance nor generating plans to improve in the future improved student outcomes in the course. Ongoing work is examining whether there are specific subgroups of students who benefitted from the intervention, and whether there are additional circumstances under which these interventions might be beneficial.
Summerville, A., & Blue, J., & Kirkmeyer, B. P., & Johnson, B. N. (2019, June), Board 147: Coulda, Woulda, Will I?: An Experimental Investigation of Counterfactual Thoughts and Intention Generation in Engineering Student Success Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32262
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