Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

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What’s the Eberly Center reading and thinking about this month?

The Research and Scholarship Digest, published the first Monday of each month, consists of short summaries of recently peer-reviewed studies on teaching and learning topics. This digest offers a view into what we are reading and thinking about at the Eberly Center that:

• adds to our understanding of how students learn
• is potentially generalizable across teaching contexts in higher education
• provokes reflection on implications for our teaching and educational development practices.

We hope the readers of this digest will find it a useful resource for staying in-tune with the rapidly expanding education research literature.

April 2024

Allen, K. A., Kern, M. L., Rozek, C. S., McInerney, D. M., & Slavich, G. M. (2021). Belonging: A review of conceptual issues, an integrative framework, and directions for future research. Australian journal of psychology, 73(1), 87-102. 

Sense of belonging is a widely studied construct in higher education that has garnered numerous varied perspectives and bodies of research contributing to how it is understood, measured, and cultivated. This paper features a review of the vast existing research literature in an attempt to create a unifying framework for continued study to further advance the field. The authors present four main components of this framework for the study of belonging: competencies (skills and abilities needed), opportunities (availability of people, space, and time), motivations (desire to connect with others), and perceptions (subjective cognitions and feelings). Each of these components is explained in detail, and implications for future research and practice are discussed through the lens of this framework.

Campbell, C., & Waddington, L. (2024). Academic integrity strategies: Student insights. Journal of Academic Ethics, 22, 33–50. 

In order to find out more about students’ awareness and understanding of academic integrity, defined for the purposes of the study as “being honest in your work, acknowledging the work of others and giving credit where you have used other people’s ideas/data,” the authors conducted two rounds of an online survey at their institution, the University of Leeds, UK (n=221 for 2020 survey; n=474 for 2021 survey). Based on student perspectives collected through the surveys, the authors make several recommendations. Among them is the importance of providing reminders throughout the semester, particularly at timely moments (e.g., as students are preparing for assessment deadlines). Another is to use clear, student-friendly language (e.g., defining what is meant by “egregious” or “collaboration”). While this survey was conducted within a particular university context, it provides perspectives on strategies that students find helpful, especially as they may be navigating different expectations in all of their courses.

Canning, E. A., White, M., & Davis, W. B. (2024). Growth mindset messages from instructors improve academic performance among first-generation college students. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 23(2), ar14.

In a large biology course (n=417), the instructor sent email messages to all students after the first two exams that contained information about the exam and their performance. About half of the students were randomly selected to receive these messages communicated through a growth mindset lens (e.g., added text about how abilities can improve, normalization of struggle, etc.) along with a brief list of suggested learning strategies (treatment condition), while the rest of the students’ messages contained only the information about the exams and a friendly invitation to attend office hours if they wished to discuss the exam further (control condition; see the supplementary materials to view the emails in their entirety). The learning strategies provided in the intervention emails were made available to all students during the lecture component of the course. By the third exam of the semester, analyses showed that for the control group, first-generation (FG) students scored significantly lower on the exam than continuing-generation (CG) students, but this was not the case for the treatment group, as there was no difference in performance for those students. This same pattern was found when examining final course grades, as well. In addition, mediation analyses revealed that this increase in performance by FG students was partially mediated by increased engagement with the course website material, suggesting that the growth mindset intervention led FG students to engage more with course materials, which in turn led to higher exam performance. These findings are among the first to shed some light on the mechanisms involved for the positive effects of growth mindset interventions in higher education, as well as highlight the importance of contextual factors beyond the mindset message itself for academic success.

Goldsmith, G. R., Aiken, M. L., Camarillo-Abad, H. M., Diki, K., Gardner, D. L., Stipčić, M., & Espeleta, J. F. (2024). Overcoming the barriers to teaching teamwork to undergraduates in STEM. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 23(2), es2.

This is a well written, accessible overview of key concepts in teaching teamwork. The authors begin by presenting specific learning objectives (here "knowledge, skills, and attitudes" or KSAs); present some research on pedagogical approaches including team charters, case studies, role-play, and self- or team-reflections; list some methods for assessing teamwork LOs; and highlight current gaps as priorities for future research. They note the dearth of studies with control groups, the relative lack of research on teaching teamwork in STEM, and the need to teach students why teamwork skills are important and how to work with team members from different backgrounds. The paper ends with a proposed timeline for teaching and assessing teamwork within a semester-long STEM course.

Yap, J. B. K., & Wong, S. S. H. (2024). Deliberately making and correcting errors in mathematical problem-solving practice improves procedural transfer to more complex problems. Journal of Educational Psychology

Mistakes are inevitable for any learner, but instructors often ignore and redirect from student errors, limiting students' ability to learn from them, or even respond harshly, creating a climate of shame. Some recent work in mathematics education has asked whether students can benefit from examining their own or others' errors. Here, the authors ask whether having students *deliberately* make a procedural error in solving a problem before solving it correctly improves their ability to transfer the algorithm to another problem. The authors present the results of two experiments with different control groups: one in which students simply solved the problem twice while avoiding errors and one in which they spotted, explained, and fixed errors made by their peers. The authors found that deliberately erring and then correcting one's own work increased problem solving skills and transfer more than either repeated practice or studying other's errors. However, students consistently rated this technique as less likely to be effective, even after experiencing the benefits. This aligns with a broader pattern of students not accurately judging the benefits of different study methods and therefore being less likely to use them. The authors end by calling for more research on 1) how to build student belief in effective methods, and 2) whether teaching students the values of deliberate error-making reduces the stress or shame they feel around mistakes.