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Throughout their education, college students receive feedback about their performance from professors, who are experts in their field. The way this feedback is expressed can influence students’ future performances. One theory is that feedback from an authority figure invoking negative gender stereotypes, even unintentionally, might negatively affect performance. In this study, we aimed to investigate how an authority figure’s feedback affects divergent thinking in male and female industrial engineering students. We targeted industrial engineers because of the relatively high gender balance in their student population. The divergent thinking abilities of the students were measured with a two-phase test consisting of the alternate uses task (AUT) and the utopian situations task (UST), with ideational fluency (number of ideas produced) as the critical output measure. Students were asked to complete both tasks while their electrodermal activity (EDA) was recorded, a biological measure that is thought to reflect engagement. The students’ divergent thinking abilities and electrodermal levels were then compared before and after two forms of feedback: positive and negative (stereotype threat). Results showed that the number of ideas generated was significantly decreased after negative feedback. However, no significant change in ideation fluency occurred after the positive feedback delivery. There was no significant task-related EDA change under positive and negative feedback interventions. These results demonstrate that this type of research can contribute critical new information for educators on how to provide more effective feedback regarding student task performance.
Gunay, E., & Van Hell, J., & Siddique, Z., & Jonczyk, R., & Dickson, D. (2022, August), Investigation of a professor’s feedback on student’s divergent thinking performance: an electrodermal activity experiment Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/41544
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