2021 - 2024
The Sense of Belonging in Undergraduate Field Education project - led by Kari O’Connell (STEM Research Center at OSU), Stephanie Shaulskiy (University of Michigan Biological Station), Alison Jolley (University of Waikato in New Zealand), and Lucas Hill (evaluator, University of Wisconsin-Madison) - will fill a critical hole in the scholarship of STEM teaching and learning by advancing understanding of how student sense of belonging develops in undergraduate learning experiences outside of the traditional classroom.
The Sense of Belonging in Undergraduate Field Education project fills a critical hole in our understanding of inclusive STEM teaching and learning in out-of-classroom settings by investigating how student sense of belonging develops during residential undergraduate field courses.. Field courses are a pivotal learning experience in STEM disciplines such as ecology, geology, and geography, and take place in a unique environment that places teaching and learning in a new context.
Belonging plays an important role in students’ mental health and well-being, academic achievement and motivation, and institution-level retention, and is pivotal for the persistence of students underrepresented in STEM disciplines. Although there is a great deal of scholarship on student sense of belonging in STEM courses, little attention has been paid thus far to how the unusual context of the field may change how sense of belonging develops or is sustained.
Our project is conducting interviews and surveys with faculty and students to investigate practices that lead to greater sense of belonging, or factors that detract from sense of belonging. Our research data will then inform and be informed by a Community of Practice for field educators, which will co-interpret our findings and work together to develop a sense of belonging framework built around promising practices for promoting belonging in the field.
The overarching goal of our project is to build the capacity of geosciences and biology faculty to support the development of students’ sense of belonging and thus improve inclusion in courses that are a critical pathway in the engagement and learning of thousands of undergraduate students in field-based STEM disciplines.
This project is funded by the National Science Foundation award #2110824.