Collaborative: Student Engagement in a Community-based, Blended Learning Environment: Perspectives from a Minority Serving Institution
There has been significant discussion regarding the retention of underrepresented groups in STEM, with the primary focus being on what works to ensure that these individuals successfully transition through each juncture of the STEM pipeline. Additionally, there is a significant body of work characterizing the deficits of students of color who struggle in STEM learning environments, with less focus on their narratives of success. This project seeks to creatively address this gap in the educational research literature by providing empirical data that describes factors that influence minority student success in blended learning environments. It is envisioned that the work will lead to a better understanding of minority female students as agents of their own success and Spelman's learning environment as one which nurtures and encourages such agency. Few studies of this nature have been conducted at minority serving institutions.
Based on prior NSF funding, the PIs successfully merged a community-based element with a blended learning environment in Spelman's general and organic chemistry courses. In the proposed work, they plan to document what is occurring in this learning environment with respect to engagement (metacognitive, cognitive, behavioral, and relational) and affective traits that comprise a student's sense of agency (motivation, efficacy, effort, and mindset). The PIs have constructed a solid well-conceived theoretical framework for their investigations. They are taking three different perspectives: agency, metacognition, and "Community of Inquiry" (CoI) and using them to examine the nature of the self-regulated learning exhibited by the students. Using a mixed methods approach to get information on "narratives of success" within the environment, the project entails the extraction of data from a well-established and controlled setting at Spelman College. The project has the potential to complement efforts around the country to create curricula and learning environments that transform students, particularly minority women, into effective learners.