Using Social Psychological Interventions to Improve Learning of All Students
Instructors often focus on content and pedagogical approaches to improve student engagement and learning in physics courses. However, students' motivational characteristics can also play an important role in their engagement and success, e.g., in physics. In particular, students' sense of belonging in a physics class, their self-efficacy, and views about whether intelligence in physics is "fixed" or "malleable" can affect engagement and learning. These types of concerns can especially impact the learning outcomes of women and underrepresented students in the physics classes and stereotype threats can exacerbate these issues while learning physics. In this workshop, we will discuss prior research studies that show how different types of social psychological interventions (e.g., social belonging and growth mindset) have improved the motivation and learning of all students, especially women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. These interventions include providing data to students about how intelligence is malleable and one can become an expert in a discipline by working hard in a deliberate manner, sharing with students examples of testimonies of past students with diverse backgrounds who struggled initially but then succeeded by working hard and using deliberate practice, asking students to write a letter to a future student about how they can succeed in physics and view struggling as a stepping stone to succeeding and giving students an opportunity to share their concerns. We will discuss how these interventions can be adapted and implemented in physics classes. We will also describe and have participants reflect upon a social belonging and growth mindset intervention that we have incorporated in introductory physics courses and findings from the intervention. The types of interventions discussed in this workshop are short, requiring less than one hour of regular class time even though they have the potential to impact student outcomes significantly—especially for women and underrepresented students.