SELF-EFFICACY INCREASES IN UNDERGRADUATE COHORTS THROUGH IMMERSIVE GEOSCIENCE EDUCATION
1) a 10-week, traveling, off-campus immersive program for second- and third-year geoscience students (the Environmental Science Semester, ESS); and
2) a one-week summer bridge program for incoming, NSF SSTEM-supported first-year science students (mixed geoscience, biology, and chemistry majors).
The ESS and bridge program have run three times and once, respectively.
Instructional and cohort-bonding activities occur within an immersive context. We distinguish immersive from intensive in part due to duration and exclusivity of scientific discipline content. For both programs, students learned, studied, traveled, and shared experiences together with an exclusive focus on geo- and biogeoscience content. Self-efficacy-enhancing activities include shared academic experiences, plus non-academic experiences such as shared meal preparation, shared living spaces, abundant social interaction with professors, camping, and sea time on small research vessels. The instructional activities involve extensive fieldwork with collection of sediment and water samples and quantitative field data, plus generation and analysis of quantitative chemical data, thus building proficiency with the tools and language of science.
Surveys and focus groups reveal that students found substantial impacts from and value in peer collaboration, quality of student-faculty interaction, and effectiveness of the learning environment. Furthermore, students’ interest in participating in scientific research increased significantly through these experiences. Critically, participating students also reported both increasing confidence in themselves as scientists and positive progress towards becoming scientists. In contrast, students who did not participate in either of these programs reported lower academic and social self-efficacy, engagement with their majors, and with self-identification as scientists.