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STEM

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In this STEM section, you’ll discover a template for tracking common problem types, a free tool that allows you to listen to math problems, ways to use dyslexia to your advantage in the field of CS, and more.

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Tips from Our Learning Specialists

  • Learning Guide for STEM courses
  • When there’s a challenging test or low course grade, hold onto the truth of your identity as an intelligent and capable student by recalling any aspects that went smoothly, no matter the size or scope, and keeping the setback in perspective. Be sure to take stock of what’s going well!
  • Harvard’s Academic Resource Center on Tackling STEM Courses
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Additional Resources at Stanford

  • Sign up for a drop-in session with us! With a Learning Lab Learning Specialist, you can talk about these strategies in more depth, personalize the approaches to suit your needs, and be supported as you practice.
  • Academic Skills Coaching

Research 

  • Blackmore, C., Vitali, J., Ainscough, L., Langfield, T., Colthorpe, K. (2021). A review of self-regulated learning and self-efficacy: The key to tertiary transition in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). International Journal of Higher Education, 10(3), 169-177. Read the article here. 
    • Students in introductory anatomy and physiology (STEM foundation) courses have the highest rates of failure across undergraduate courses; therefore, the need to develop strong learning strategies is heightened. After discussing self-regulated learning theories, the researchers state that self-regulation and self-efficacy are essential skills for academic success and lifelong learning. Through metacognitive practice, students learn to set realistic goals, to accurately evaluate the cause of their performance, and to adjust their strategies for the next cycle of learning.
  • Henry, M. A., Shorter, S., Charkoudian, L., Heemstra, J. M., & Corwin, L. A. (2019). FAIL is not a four-letter word: A theoretical framework for exploring undergraduate students’ approaches to academic challenge and responses to failure in STEM learning environments. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 18(1), 1-17. Read the article here.
    • This article outlines a theoretical model that explains students’ successful and unsuccessful approaches to learning STEM. Learning from errors is important and having an effective approach to dealing with challenges and failures can help during one’s STEM education. This model predicts that while every STEM student experiences challenges, success is more likely when one attributes failure to lack of effort or strategy (controllable)  rather than lack of ability (uncontrollable). A growth mindset with an emphasis on approaching mastery of skill rather than ideal performance leads to a more optimistic, motivated, and adaptive mindset. Adaptive coping places an emphasis on problem solving, support seeking, and cognitive reframing while maladaptive coping emphasizes escape behaviors, feelings of helplessness, and opposition.
  • Lukes, L.A., McConnell, D.A. (2014). What motivates introductory geology students to study for an exam?, Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(4), 725-735. Read the article here.
    • Students’ emotions are seen as influential in choosing academic approaches, such as the amount of time spent studying for an exam. Two primary types of motivation are explored: performance motivation, which keys into grades, and learning acquisition motivation, which is predicated on curiosity and a desire to understand and apply concepts. The former relates to course performance and the latter attaches to success in the field at large and its benefits to humankind. This study looked at what motivated students to study for an exam in an introductory geological science course across two research universities and three community colleges. Through qualitative data, high-performing students report wanting to avoid negative emotions as well as fully understand the material as their primary motivators.

  • Theobald, E. J., Hill, M. J., Tran, E., Agrawal, S., Arroyo, E. N., Behling, S., Chambwe, N., Cintron, D. L., Cooper, J. D., Dunster, G., Grummer, J. A., Hennessey, K., Hsiao, J., Iranon, N., Jones II, L., Jordt, H., Keller, M., Lacey, M. E., Littlefield, C. E., Lowe, A., Newman, S., Okolo, V., Olroyd, S., Peecook, B. R., Pickett, S. B., Slager, D. L., Caviedes-Solis, I. W., Stanchak, K. E., Sundaravardan, V., Valdebenito, C., Williams, C. R., Zinsli, K., & Freeman, S. (2020). Active learning narrows achievement gaps for underrepresented students in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(12), 6476-6483. Read the article here.

    • Underrepresented students in STEM majors may experience achievement gaps that lead to income inequality and decreased diversity in the field. Traditional lecturing can contribute to greater attrition in classrooms. The researchers predicted that active learning in STEM classrooms will improve outcomes for all students and will be particularly beneficial for underrepresented STEM students. They analyzed 26 studies and found that in classrooms that promoted active learning, achievement gaps in exam scores were reduced by 33% and discrepancies in passing rates were reduced by 45%. The authors argue for the heads-and-hearts hypothesis which states that achievement gaps can be reduced, and student performance increased, through active learning, deliberate practice, and inclusive teaching. The main takeaway for students is that active learning, as opposed to passive learning, can improve the comprehension and retention of information. Even when teachers do not facilitate active learning, students can incorporate active learning into their studying.