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Supporting Students from Day 1 of College: The Importance of Relatedness to Inclusivity

    Authors: Stephen C. Scogin1,2,*, Michelle Austin2, Cindy Alexander1, Catherine Mader3, Aaron Best1, Katrina Rietberg2, Katherine Supanich1, Lara Iaderosa2, Carly Sommavilla2, Julie Barber2
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    Affiliations: 1: Biology Department, Hope College, Holland, MI 49423; 2: Education Department, Hope College, Holland, MI 49423; 3: Physics Department, Hope College, Holland, MI 49423
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2020 vol. 21 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i2.2015
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    Abstract:

    Day 1: Watershed (WS) is a first-year program designed to provide an inclusive environment for students and immerse them in research from day 1 of college. Originally developed to support students from underrepresented groups (URGs) including first-generation students and students of color, WS provides authentic research experiences for all students as they collect and analyze water and microbiological samples from the local watershed. WS also includes a living–learning community with students living in the same dorm and taking common courses during their first year. In the first year of our study, researchers investigated students’ anxieties, feelings of belonging or isolation, supports received, and personal habits. In year 2 (the primary year reported), researchers used mixed-methods and self-determination theory to determine how WS students differed from students in other introductory and research-based courses in terms of basic psychological needs satisfaction (including autonomy, competence, and relatedness). Results indicated that although WS students felt less autonomous and, at times, less competent than other students, 90% reported a positive experience. Furthermore, findings suggest that WS students’ feelings of connection with classmates and instructors, as well as a sense of belonging in the course, provided the necessary motivational support to facilitate a positive learning experience. These findings indicate that the WS program can be a viable model for supporting students in early science courses and making them feel included.

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2020-05-29
2020-09-29

Abstract:

Day 1: Watershed (WS) is a first-year program designed to provide an inclusive environment for students and immerse them in research from day 1 of college. Originally developed to support students from underrepresented groups (URGs) including first-generation students and students of color, WS provides authentic research experiences for all students as they collect and analyze water and microbiological samples from the local watershed. WS also includes a living–learning community with students living in the same dorm and taking common courses during their first year. In the first year of our study, researchers investigated students’ anxieties, feelings of belonging or isolation, supports received, and personal habits. In year 2 (the primary year reported), researchers used mixed-methods and self-determination theory to determine how WS students differed from students in other introductory and research-based courses in terms of basic psychological needs satisfaction (including autonomy, competence, and relatedness). Results indicated that although WS students felt less autonomous and, at times, less competent than other students, 90% reported a positive experience. Furthermore, findings suggest that WS students’ feelings of connection with classmates and instructors, as well as a sense of belonging in the course, provided the necessary motivational support to facilitate a positive learning experience. These findings indicate that the WS program can be a viable model for supporting students in early science courses and making them feel included.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Timeline for data collection in year 1 exploratory study and current study (year 2). The figure includes data collection timing (pre-, in-, or post-course), instruments (reflections or surveys), and sample groups (WS, Chem, Phage).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2020 vol. 21 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i2.2015
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FIGURE 2

Precourse reasons introductory students felt anxious and/or doubtful about their respective courses (data from weekly reflections). X-axis categories were defined as follows: abilities (anxiety due to perceived lack of academic abilities and/or lab skills), course load (anxiety about volume of work in course), course rigor (anxiety about challenge of the course), time management (anxiety about being able to manage time) and unknown (anxiety about not knowing how college courses worked).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2020 vol. 21 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i2.2015
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Image of FIGURE 3

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FIGURE 3

Precourse reasons why introductory students felt anxious about belonging at the institution (data from weekly reflections). X-axis categories were defined as follows: making friends (general apprehension about making friends on campus), meeting new people (general fearfulness about interacting with new people), roommate (apprehension about roommate, specifically).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2020 vol. 21 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i2.2015
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Image of FIGURE 4

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FIGURE 4

Reasons why introductory students felt confident they would be successful in the course (in-course; data from weekly reflections). X-axis categories were defined as follows: abilities (skills students had or could gain quickly), familiarity (confidence gained by becoming familiar with the course, teacher, etc. in first meetings), relational (references to specific support persons, e.g., peers, professors, teaching assistants); resources (general academic supports, e.g., tutoring, library).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2020 vol. 21 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i2.2015
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