Collaborative Learning in STEM: Impacts on Student Motivation, Retention and Self-efficacy (2019-2020)

The goal of this project was to determine the impacts of collaborative learning on course-related behaviors and enthusiasm for course content in undergraduate STEM classrooms at Duke.

This Bass Connections team tested whether collaborative learning improves self-efficacy and the desire to stay in STEM fields in underrepresented student populations. The team created a survey to measure the impacts of STEM course structure on course- related attitudes and learning outcomes. They surveyed over 850 students across various STEM classes from the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. Their results showed that students in classes with higher structure showed:

  • Higher levels of engagement
  • Increased factual knowledge
  • More confidence in content knowledge
  • Greater ability to apply, analyze, and synthesize knowledge
  • Increased sense of belonging
  • Greater sense of community.


Summer 2019 – Spring 2020

Team Outputs

How Course Structure Impacts Student Outcomes (Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase 2020)

Impacts of Course Structure on Learning Experience (presentation by Clarke Shead and Matt Long)

Collaborative Learning in STEM Positively Impacts Student Outcomes (poster by Nicole Santeiro, Taylor Braswell, Matthew Long, Clarke Shead, Benjamin Thier, Junette Yu, Thomas Newpher, Minna Ng)

The Changing Landscape of Higher Education (talk by Thomas Newpher and Ben Thier, TEDxDuke 2020: (un)familiar, Duke University, February 9, 2020)


Taylor Braswell

This Team in the News

Senior Spotlight: Reflections from the Class of 2021

To Increase Diversity in STEM, Consider a Collaborative Learning Approach

Bass Connections Teams Share Research Highlights in a Virtual Showcase

Doctoral Students Honored for Commitment to Outstanding Mentorship

Thomas Newpher and Ben Thier Deliver Talk at TEDxDuke

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. See related team, Impacts of Collaborative Learning in STEM (2020-2021).


Image: Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium, by Fabrice Florin, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium.

Team Leaders

  • Thomas Newpher, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Minna Ng, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience

/graduate Team Members

  • Nicole Santeiro, Masters of Public Policy

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Taylor Braswell, Psychology (AB)
  • Matthew Long, Biology (AB)
  • Clarke Shead, Psychology (BS)
  • Benjamin Thier, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Junette Yu, Neuroscience (BS)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Elizabeth Bucholz, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering
  • Dorian Canelas, Arts & Sciences-Chemistry
  • Jeffrey Forbes, Arts & Sciences-Computer Science