The Relations between Students’ Belongingness, Self-efficacy, and Response to Active Learning

Jenefer Husman
University of Oregon

Post-secondary STEM education continues to focus on improving student outcomes through the use of instructional practices designed to increase student engagement (e.g., NSF 2014). Despite these benefits, students do not always respond positively to active learning. When confronted with what are often seen as novel teaching practices, students may experience a negative affective response, feeling less positive about the activity or perceiving it as lacking value. Additionally, students may behaviorally respond by being distracted, not participating in the activities or evaluating the course negatively as a result (DeMonbrun et al., 2017).

This study, part of a larger multi-site faculty development program, examines the degree to which students’ participation in active learning activities and students’ valuing, affect, and evaluation of those activities is related to their motivation (self-efficacy) and their comfort with other members of their class (belongingness). This study examines the degree to which students’ self-efficacy for learning (Pintrich et al., 1993) and belongingness (Malone et al., 2012) may influence their affective and behavioral responses to active learning in their STEM education class. We also examine the degree to which students’ gender moderate these relations.

Guiding Questions
Specifically, we answer the following research questions:
RQ1: Do students’ self-efficacy and belongingness predict their affective and behavioral response to active learning in STEM classrooms?
RQ2: Does students’ gender moderate the relation between their self-efficacy and belongingness on their affective and behavioral response to active learning?

Student Participants. (n = 579; Female = 200; Male=253; Gender non-conforming=8) were recruited from STEM classes taught by 25 faculty at 14 colleges and universities in the South Central and Pacific Northwest regions of the United States. Instructors distributed anonymous online surveys to students following a class in which faculty indicated they had used active learning.
Measures. In this study, we used measures of students’ response to active learning using the Student Response to Instructional Practices (StRIP) instrument (DeMonbrun et al., 2017). We measured self-efficacy for learning (MSLQ; Pintrich et al., 1993). Course belongingness was assessed using six items adapted from the General Belongingness Scale (GBS; Malone et al., 2012).

To answer our first research question, we fit latent variable indirect-effect SEM using bootstrap standard errors. This model achieved adequate fit (Hu & Bentler, 1999); χ2(df)=882.93(411), p < .01; CFI=.93; RMSEA [90% CI]=.051 [.047, .055]. To answer our second question, we fit separate models for female- and male-identifying students and systematically constrained parameters to be invariant across groups. For both groups, belonging and self-efficacy each independently predicted both positivity and value affective response. Belongingness also predicted students’ participation.

Broader Impacts
We found that both self-efficacy and belongingness predicted students’ affective response (their positivity and value) as well as their participation and evaluation of class activities. We also found that although the latent variable means were different for male and female students, the pattern of relations between factors was the same. This suggests that fostering an atmosphere that supports both self-efficacy and belongingness may support all students’ participation in classroom activities.


Matthew C. Graham, Katie Jacobson, Madeleine Smith, Jenefer Husman, University of Oregon, Eugene Oregon; Cynthia Finelli, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Maura J. Borrego, University of Texas at Austin, Austin Texas; Michael J. Prince, Bucknell University Lewisburg, Pennsylvania