Comparing Social Comparisons in Geoscience Courses

Wednesday 2:00pm Northrop Hall: 340


Caitlin Callahan, Grand Valley State University
Andrew R. Sparks, Grand Valley State University
Students commonly compare their performance on an assignment or in a class to that of their peers. Our goal in this descriptive pilot study is to explore how this tendency towards making comparisons—defined as their social comparison orientation—relates to students' motivation to learn or motivation to seek help in their learning from others. In particular, we are investigating whether there are differences in social comparison orientation between students enrolled in introductory geoscience courses and students enrolled in courses meant for geoscience majors. For instance, we can reasonably expect that declared geoscience majors are more likely to express greater interest in geoscience content than students enrolled in introductory courses; indeed, the latter commonly complete introductory courses mainly to satisfy general education requirements. But is social comparison more or less prominent in courses for declared geoscience majors than in introductory courses? How might social comparison be influencing the learning environment of not only a course for majors but also a course for non-majors?

For this project, we conducted a survey study with items related to social comparison orientation as well as items from the following sub-scales of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ): Intrinsic Goal Orientation, Task Value, Peer Learning, and Help Seeking. We also collected data on demographics and grades for students in both introductory and upper-level geoscience courses. Statistical analyses focus on identifying whether differences within and between the groups are meaningful. Future work will expand to include the collection of interview data.