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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Are all labs equal? An investigation of student self-efficacy and its relation to different lab types.

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Whether or not a student believes they can perform well in STEM is their self-efficacy, and self-efficacy can impact student success in STEM. It has been shown that student self-efficacy can be positively impacted by hands on experience with the scientific method, and this experience can be provided by lab classes. However, lab classes can take many different forms, with different types of activities sometimes within one course, for example: wet labs, discussion sections, and field labs. Whether or not different types of lab classes differentially affects student self-efficacy. To address this question, I sent out surveys to students of an upper-level biology lab class after different lab activities to assess self-efficacy. I found that the wet lab had slightly more positive impact on self-efficacy than the field or discussion labs, but none had a negative impact. Further, I analyzed what students felt were barriers to their success in STEM and found students feel that they are unable to understand, communicate, and apply concepts. These survey results suggest that while lab activities do improve self-efficacy, students still feel overall that they are not being prepared for a career in STEM. A more formal link between lecture, lab, and general science skills may further improve student self-efficacy and aid in the removal of student-perceived barriers to their success in STEM.

Lillie Pennington, Graduate Student, UC Merced

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