Digest No. 11 - August 2023
Social-cognitive skills are sets of mental habits that can be influenced and developed by one’s social interactions, and that in turn help to shape those interactions. These include skills that are important for student success, such as self-efficacy (one’s subjective evaluation of whether they are able to perform a particular task) and self-regulation (one’s ability to manage emotions, ignore distractions, develop goals, and monitor whether their behavior is bringing them closer to achieving those goals). Recent studies have shown that developing these skills is especially important for first-generation students or those who may feel less comfortable than others in academic spaces. This study sought to enhance students’ social cognitive skills. The research team designed a collaborative learning program that was attached to an introductory STEM course. In this program a peer facilitator who had experienced prior success in the STEM course and who demonstrated empathy and leadership skills oversaw the weekly meeting of small (5–7 person) peer-led study groups. In total, 604 students chose to participate in the collaborative learning program, and their outcomes were compared to 676 similar peers. The research team found that students who experienced the course exhibited greater self-regulation for learning, higher self-efficacy for course tasks, and were more likely to employ deep learning methods, such as seeking out underlying patterns and concepts, than their peers, who tended to rely more heavily on rote memorization.