It is critically important to promote interest and motivation for underrepresented ethnic minority (UEM) students in introductory biology courses, because these courses serve as a gateway to successive courses and careers in the biomedical sciences. We propose an experimental field test of two social psychological interventions: the values affirmation technique focuses on the student's personal values;the utility value intervention focuses on the value or usefulness of course content. To date, neither intervention has been tested in college biology courses, nor have these interventions been tested together in the same course. We believe that these interventions can be combined to promote motivation and performance for underrepresented students in biology. We propose a large-scale field experiment with 2200 students in introductory biology courses at UW, as well a set of complementary laboratory experiments to examine the mechanisms through which these interventions work. We will evaluate the separate and combined effects of Values Affirmation and Utility Value interventions in the year-long introductory biology sequence taken by biological science majors at UW- Madison. We will follow four cohorts (N=2200) of introductory biology students longitudinally from their enrollment in the introductory biology course through their graduation from college. Our goals are 1) to test the effectiveness of the values affirmation intervention in introductory biology classes for threatened groups (underrepresented ethnic minority students and first-generation students) for the following outcomes: retention in the course, course performance, and interest in biology 2) Examine the effectiveness of the utility value intervention in introductory biology classes for threatened groups for the following outcomes: retention in the course, course performance, and interest in biology, 3) Test the two interventions in combination to determine whether they work additively or synergistically to promote motivation and performance in biology courses for threatened groups. In addition, we plan to test the long-term effects of both interventions on students'subsequent course-taking, choice of major, and career plans at graduation, using a longitudinal design, testing our hypothesis that these interventions should be effective in promoting motivation for biomedical careers. Finally, we will examine the mechanisms through which these interventions work, by systematically varying the parameters of the interventions and measuring hypothesized mediators in the large-scale, longitudinal field experiment and by conducting experimental research in laboratory studies.

Public Health Relevance

It is critically important to promote interest and motivation for underrepresented ethnic minority (UEM) students in introductory biology courses, which act as a gateway to successive courses and careers. Increasing the pool of talent for doctorates in the biomedical sciences is crucial, for these are the persons who will pioneer essential advances to improve the health of the U.S. population. We propose a large-scale field experiment to test two social psychological interventions intended to promote motivation and performance for underrepresented students in biology classes.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
1R01GM102703-01
Application #
8366716
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZGM1-MORE-7 (IN))
Program Officer
Poodry, Clifton A
Project Start
2012-08-15
Project End
2016-06-30
Budget Start
2012-08-15
Budget End
2013-06-30
Support Year
1
Fiscal Year
2012
Total Cost
$292,920
Indirect Cost
$92,920
Name
University of Wisconsin Madison
Department
Psychology
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
161202122
City
Madison
State
WI
Country
United States
Zip Code
53715
Harackiewicz, Judith M; Canning, Elizabeth A; Tibbetts, Yoi et al. (2014) Closing the Social Class Achievement Gap for First-Generation Students in Undergraduate Biology. J Educ Psychol 106:375-389