Effects of role playing as an active learning strategy on student sense of classroom community and STEM Identity

Monday 4:30pm-6:00pm SERC Building - Atrium | Poster #13
Poster Session Part of Monday Poster Session

Authors

Alexa Tomlinson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Bryant Hutson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Megan Plenge, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fostering a sense of classroom community in introductory geoscience classes can support students' sense of belonging, help students feel like part of the broader scientific community, and help them build a sense of identity as a geoscientist. This study examines the effect of incorporating a 2-week, collaborative role-playing activity on students' sense of classroom community and STEM-identity in an introductory hydrology classroom. Students assumed roles of residents, medical center representatives, government employees, and environmental activists to learn about flooding through an environmental justice lens, focusing on flooding that occurred in Brays Bayou (Harris County, Texas) during Tropical Storm Allison. We hypothesized that students' sense of classroom belonging and STEM identity would increase because of the activity. Pre-post surveys were given immediately before and after the learning module to evaluate students' sense of classroom community and STEM-identity using 6- and 7-point Likert scales. Qualitative analysis of one short-answer survey question, which asks students to define "hydrologist," is included to provide context to STEM-identity Likert data. Comparison of paired pre- and post- survey data on classroom community shows increase in mean agreement. This increase was significant for four statements, for which effect sizes were medium to large as compared to paired STEM-identity data, which show small effect size and no significant change. Preliminary results suggest a ceiling effect as most participants showed a developed sense of STEM-identity before intervention. This suggests that positive changes to classroom community were not due to changes in STEM-identity, and the social aspects of the role-playing activity did not significantly alter student conceptions of what hydrologists do. The significant increase in classroom community alone has important implications of utilizing role playing as an active learning strategy to enhance student learning experience by creating a positive classroom climate, which may help draw more students to the geosciences.