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  1. Warfa, Abdi (Ed.)
    Students’ perceptions of challenges in biology influence performance outcomes, experiences, and persistence in science. Identifying sources of student struggle can assist efforts to support students as they overcome challenges in their undergraduate educations. In this study, we characterized student experiences of struggle by 1) quantifying which external factors relate to perceptions of encountering and overcoming struggle in introductory biology and 2) identifying factors to which students attribute their struggle in biology. We found a significant effect of Course, Instructor, and Incoming Preparation on student struggle, in which students with lower Incoming Preparation were more likely to report struggle and the inability to overcome struggle. We also observed significant differences in performance outcomes between students who did and did not encounter struggle and between students who did and did not overcome their struggle. Using inductive coding, we categorized student responses outlining causes of struggle, and using axial coding, we further categorized these as internally or externally attributed factors. External sources (i.e., Prior Biology, COVID-19, External Resources, Classroom Factors) were more commonly cited as the reason(s) students did or did not struggle. We conclude with recommendations for instructors, highlighting equitable teaching strategies and practices.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  2. Price, Rebecca (Ed.)
    To enhance equity and diversity in undergraduate biology, recent research in biology education focuses on best practices that reduce learning barriers for all students and improve academic performance. However, the majority of current research into student experiences in introductory biology takes place at large, predominantly White institutions. To foster contextual knowledge in biology education research, we harnessed data from a large research coordination network to examine the extent of academic performance gaps based on demographic status across institutional contexts and how two psychological factors, test anxiety and ethnicity stigma consciousness, may mediate performance in introductory biology. We used data from seven institutions across three institution types: 2-year community colleges, 4-year inclusive institutions (based on admissions selectivity; hereafter, inclusive), and 4-year selective institutions (hereafter, selective). In our sample, we did not observe binary gender gaps across institutional contexts, but found that performance gaps based on underrepresented minority status were evident at inclusive and selective 4-year institutions, but not at community colleges. Differences in social psychological factors and their impacts on academic performance varied substantially across institutional contexts. Our findings demonstrate that institutional context can play an important role in the mechanisms underlying performance gaps.
  3. Andrews, Tessa C. (Ed.)
    To investigate patterns of gender-based performance gaps, we conducted a meta-analysis of published studies and unpublished data collected across 169 undergraduate biology and chemistry courses. While we did not detect an overall gender gap in performance, heterogeneity analyses suggested further analysis was warranted, so we investigated whether attributes of the learning environment impacted performance disparities on the basis of gender. Several factors moderated performance differences, including class size, assessment type, and pedagogy. Specifically, we found evidence that larger classes, reliance on exams, and undisrupted, traditional lecture were associated with lower grades for women. We discuss our results in the context of natural science courses and conclude by making recommendations for instructional practices and future research to promote gender equity.