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Developmental Trajectories of Student Self-Perception over a Yearlong Introductory Biology Sequence

Cole & Beck / CBE–Life Sciences Education / August 2022


Two female students, one of whom is wearing a hijab, sit outside and work on a laptop

Student self-perception is related to persistence in science. Yet how self-perception develops over time is less clear. This study examined student self-perception trajectories and their relationship with gender, persons excluded due to ethnicity or race (PEER) status, and first-generation college student (FGCS) status across a yearlong introductory biology sequence. While the authors found similar rates of change in self-efficacy and science identity for all groups, females and PEER students had lower initial scores that failed to “catch up” to male and non-PEER scores by the end of the year. Students grouped into either high and stable or lower and decreasing trajectories for scientific community values, with first-generation college students overrepresented in the latter group. Additionally, the authors found no evidence for intersectionality of subgroups. They did find evidence that the relationship between gender and PEER status and science identity is likely mediated via self-efficacy. Taken together, their results suggest that introductory biology students develop self-efficacy and science identity at similar rates regardless of gender, PEER status, or FGCS status and that interventions targeting scientific community values for all students and self-efficacy of female and PEER students may be fruitful areas to pursue to increase persistence of students in the sciences and to reduce score differences between groups.

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