SOCIO-ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS AND THEIR IMPACT ON STUDENT COOPERATIVE ENGAGEMENT
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Increased attention is being paid to the role that engagement with scientific practices plays in undergraduate biology education. Particularly important, and understudied, are social aspects of scientific practice (i.e. collaboration, communication, and critique). Social aspects of scientific practice are critical to both the success of practicing scientists and those wishing to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Despite this importance, there has been limited research identifying and addressing factors that encourage students to actively engage with social aspects of scientific practice in undergraduate classrooms. Particularly how classroom social environments differentially contribute to students’ willingness to engage with their peers. The articles herein further our understanding of how different factors in the classroom social environment relate to student willingness to cooperate with their peers during learning. First, we examined how different aspects of students’ perception of their classroom social environment relate to their dispositions towards investing in peer cooperation. Second, we integrated a nine week intervention, designed to increase the benefit students receive from peers, into laboratory classes of a large introductory sequence biology course. Multiple data sources, including whole-classroom and individual student observations, were examined and showed that student engagement with peers increased in response to the intervention. Additional factors related to student perception of their social environment predicted variance in whole-classroom collaborative engagement beyond the intervention itself. Third, video and audio data were collected from groups completing either the intervention or a comparison activity to closely examine cooperative discourse. Differences in discourse by condition, as well as between the highest and lowest performing groups, were analyzed to provide insight into the extent to which the intervention could shift student discourse in ways aligned with greater student achievement.