Impact of Mindset Training for Supplemental Instructors and Faculty on STEM Courses at Small College

Clayton Spencer
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Illinois College

Need: The impact of enhanced mindset training for peer Supplemental Instructors (SI) and supervising faculty in gateway STEM courses (Precalculus, Calculus I, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry I & II, General Physics I & II, and Molecular Genetics) at a small liberal arts college setting was investigated. Guiding Questions: The interaction model hypothesized that gains in growth mindset orientation and metacognitive self-efficacy as delivered through peer Supplemental Instruction would improve student content mastery, and that this would translate into higher course success rates and increased retention of STEM majors. Peer SI leaders and target course faculty participated in a three-day workshop prior to the start of the semester that emphasized best-practice in STEM supplemental instruction, growth vs. fixed mindset orientations, and metacognitive self-efficacy strategies. Faculty and peer SI’s separately attended follow-up meetings with program staff three to four times during the semester. Outcomes: Target course students were assessed at the beginning and end of each term using 52 items from the Metacognitive Awareness Inventory (Schraw & Dennison, 1994) to assess metacognition and self-efficacy and three-items from the Growth Mindset Scale (Dweck, 1999; 2006) to assess disposition towards growth vs. fixed mindset. This mindset scale was expanded in the spring of 2021 with the addition of 5 items from the Revised Implicit Theories of Intelligence Scale (De Castella & Byrne, 2015). A survey of student perceptions keyed to Supplemental Instruction outcomes was administered at the end of the term by the external evaluator. Student content knowledge gains (as normalized gains) were measured with faculty-developed pre- and post- course assessments. Gains in growth mindset orientation and metacognitive self-efficacy were found and changes in metacognitive knowledge predicted students’ posttest content mastery scores. Furthermore, student perceptions of supplemental instruction outcomes indicate that the program improves course performance and learning, facilitates peer integration, promotes self-efficacy and effective practice, and develops growth mindset orientation and metacognitive awareness. Broader Impacts: Implementing this program in targeted STEM courses at a small college had broader implications for SI training across disciplines including the integration of growth mindset and metacognitive strategies and providing opportunities for extended SI training throughout the semester. Additionally, the work done as part of this training program provided a cohesive framework in the development of structures for remote or asynchronous SI as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Challenges encountered at our small college setting included the complexity of hiring qualified SI leaders from a limited pool constrained by rigid course schedules, and training SI leaders that are also students in other target STEM courses. Based on evidence from the study and experience with implementation, a framework for training faculty and SI leaders within the small college context in best practice for STEM SI, growth mindset, and metacognition will be made available for dissemination.


Elizabeth Rellinger Zettler, Illinois College, Jacksonville, IL; Amy Schwiderski, Illinois College, Jacksonville, IL