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Are students entering as scientists? Pre-course Assessment of Undergraduate Student Science Identity

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Steven Hughes

The promotion of a more diverse and accessible environment in science classrooms is a goal espoused by many major educational institutions, and in keeping with that goal, many efforts have been made at an institutional level to introduce more resources for traditionally underserved student populations. At the classroom level, science instructors are responsible for adopting more inclusive pedagogy, modifying their methodologies to best engage students of all backgrounds (Wyatt et al., 2021). One way instructors can support students is by providing experiences that enable them to engage meaningfully with the scientific community in some capacity, allowing opportunities for the development and exploration of their science identity, that is, their perception of themselves as a ""science person"" (Carlone and Johnson, 2007).
Although investigation into student science identity is not a novel concept, most previous research on the subject has focused primarily on science majors at research-focused institutions using purely quantitative measures. The current study aims to incorporate both quantitative and qualitative data regarding student science identity collected from a wider, more diverse population of science students. Current data consists of 1268 student responses, collected from pre-course surveys, which were distributed in 14 classes taught by 16 different instructors, spanning introductory and general education science courses to advanced, upper-division courses. Qualitative coding of responses collected regarding student perceptions of what it means to be a scientist, their self-identification as a scientist, as well as their perceived connectedness to the scientific community at large, reveal notable differences between different student groups while also highlighting relevant consistencies across different courses. For instance, all surveyed courses have students who report feeling disconnected from the scientific community and struggle to understand what it means to have such a connection, meanwhile those that do report feelings of connectedness tend to attribute that feeling as being due to their own native interest in the community at similar rates regardless of their status as a non-major, introductory-major or advanced-major student. We also see shifts in the types of language used to describe scientists as students progress in science majors, incorporating fewer stereotypical examples in their descriptions and emphasizing the role of continual learning as a defining characteristic, while also self-identifying as scientists at higher rates than their non-major or introductory-major fellows. The potential connections of these codes to other aspects of student science motivation and engagement will be explored, and discussion of potential implications of these findings will be discussed along with the benefits of pre-course assessments and other evidence-based approaches in the promotion of in-classroom student science identity formation.
University / Institution: Utah Valley University
Type: Poster
Format: In Person
Presentation #C57
SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)
Area of Research: Social Sciences
Faculty Mentor: Britt Wyatt