July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Educational Research and Methods
This quasi-experimental, mixed-methods study extends research into social-cognitive factors that influence STEM retention and persistence by operationalizing social-cognitive variables in an applied setting in order to promote achievement, self-efficacy, and engineering identity--variables linked to engineering persistence  - .
The Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act (1980) made recruiting women and underrepresented minorities (URM) into STEM a federal priority. Yet today, the proportion of URM and women who attain engineering degrees continues to drop relative to the increase in college enrollment . Transfer students, who are disproportionately URM and first-generation college students are a target population for boosting representation in engineering  - . At a Southwestern university in the U.S., transfer students take thermodynamics, a required gateway course, in their first or second term. A high failure rate in the course is hypothesized to cause “transfer shock,” resulting in students leaving engineering and higher education altogether , .
In Spring 2020, the project team initiated the PEER led, Student Instructed, STudy group project (PEERSIST). The model is based on Uri Treisman’s Peer-Led Study Group (PLSG) model, initiated at U.C. Berkeley over 40 years ago and which has been implemented successfully in several contexts since  - . PLSGs are not remedial; problems are chosen by the course instructor that range from moderate difficulty to impossible to solve. PLSGs promote competence through peer dialogue, during which disciplinary knowledge is socially co-constructed and refined over successive sessions. Students learn to think like engineers, and thereby develop technical competence, disciplinary identity, and self-efficacy in the major . A TA observes the group, but only intervenes if it is completely stuck or is off in a fruitless direction. This study is unique in that it is the first we are aware of that is deployed in a gateway engineering course, focuses on self-efficacy and disciplinary identity, and uses a quasi-experimental design to assess the effects of peer dialogue vs. traditional recitation.
Research questions are: 1) To what extent does peer-interaction in discipline-based problem solving promote a) student competence in course material, b) enhanced self-efficacy for discipline-based problem solving, c) engineering identity, and d) institutional affiliation? 2) To what extent Is students’ ability to solve discipline-based problems (i.e., thermodynamics) enhanced through peer-dialogue compared to TA-led recitations?
In the fall semester, 2020, 50 students across three sections of the course (8%) were recruited to the study. Approximately half of the students are transfer students. Of the 50 who signed up to participate in study groups, approximately 12 were placed in a TA-led recitation (TARs) comparison group. The same problems were reviewed as those worked on the PLSGs, but without peer dialogue. PLGSs and TARs met for one hour each week for eight weeks, until the final exam. This Work in Progress will review preliminary findings that compare data on course achievement, self-efficacy, and engineering and institutional identity based on participation in PLSGs vs. TARs, and between transfer students and non-transfer students.
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Ta, T. N. Y., & Lichtenstein, G., & Jenkins, C. D., & Smith, K. A., & Milcarek, R. J., & Brunhaver, S. R. (2021, July), The PEERSIST Project: Promoting Engineering Persistence Through Peer-led Study Groups Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://strategy.asee.org/37881
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