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      Context Matters: Social Psychological Factors That Underlie Academic Performance across Seven Institutions


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          To enhance equity and diversity in undergraduate biology, recent research in biology education focuses on best practices that reduce learning barriers for all students and improve academic performance. However, the majority of current research into student experiences in introductory biology takes place at large, predominantly White institutions. To foster contextual knowledge in biology education research, we harnessed data from a large research coordination network to examine the extent of academic performance gaps based on demographic status across institutional contexts and how two psychological factors, test anxiety and ethnicity stigma consciousness, may mediate performance in introductory biology. We used data from seven institutions across three institution types: 2-year community colleges, 4-year inclusive institutions (based on admissions selectivity; hereafter, inclusive), and 4-year selective institutions (hereafter, selective). In our sample, we did not observe binary gender gaps across institutional contexts, but found that performance gaps based on underrepresented minority status were evident at inclusive and selective 4-year institutions, but not at community colleges. Differences in social psychological factors and their impacts on academic performance varied substantially across institutional contexts. Our findings demonstrate that institutional context can play an important role in the mechanisms underlying performance gaps.

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          Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives

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            Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics.

            To test the hypothesis that lecturing maximizes learning and course performance, we metaanalyzed 225 studies that reported data on examination scores or failure rates when comparing student performance in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses under traditional lecturing versus active learning. The effect sizes indicate that on average, student performance on examinations and concept inventories increased by 0.47 SDs under active learning (n = 158 studies), and that the odds ratio for failing was 1.95 under traditional lecturing (n = 67 studies). These results indicate that average examination scores improved by about 6% in active learning sections, and that students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning. Heterogeneity analyses indicated that both results hold across the STEM disciplines, that active learning increases scores on concept inventories more than on course examinations, and that active learning appears effective across all class sizes--although the greatest effects are in small (n ≤ 50) classes. Trim and fill analyses and fail-safe n calculations suggest that the results are not due to publication bias. The results also appear robust to variation in the methodological rigor of the included studies, based on the quality of controls over student quality and instructor identity. This is the largest and most comprehensive metaanalysis of undergraduate STEM education published to date. The results raise questions about the continued use of traditional lecturing as a control in research studies, and support active learning as the preferred, empirically validated teaching practice in regular classrooms.
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              Stereotype Threat and Women's Math Performance


                Author and article information

                Role: Monitoring Editor
                CBE Life Sci Educ
                CBE Life Sci Educ
                CBE Life Sciences Education
                American Society for Cell Biology
                Winter 2021
                : 20
                : 4
                : ar68
                [1 ]Graduate School of Education, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
                [2 ]Department of Biological Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849
                [3 ]Biological Sciences Department, California State University, Chico, Chico, CA 95929
                [4 ]Department of Biology Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455
                [5 ]Department of Biology, Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham, OR 97030
                [6 ]College of Arts and Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
                [7 ]Biology Department, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL 36088
                [8 ]Department of Biological Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824
                [9 ]Department of Science and Technology, Finger Lakes Community College, Canandaigua, NY 14424
                [10 ]Department of Biology, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003
                [11 ]College of Arts and Sciences, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC 29733
                Author notes
                *Address correspondence to: C. J. Ballen ( mjb0100@ 123456auburn.edu ).
                © 2021 S. Salehi et al. CBE—Life Sciences Education © 2021 The American Society for Cell Biology. “ASCB®” and “The American Society for Cell Biology®” are registered trademarks of The American Society for Cell Biology.

                This article is distributed by The American Society for Cell Biology under license from the author(s). It is available to the public under an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License.

                : 20 January 2021
                : 15 September 2021
                : 29 September 2021
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