Effects of Digital Learning Skill Training on the Academic Performance of Undergraduates in Science and Mathematics

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Journal of Educational Psychology





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Many science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) majors fail to complete their degrees, and those who leave report they lack learning skills required for STEM coursework. In 2 studies, we examined the effects on students’ exam performances when they were assigned to complete a brief digital learning skills training program we embedded into their course site on the university learning management system for their large lecture science and math courses. Study 1 examined whether delivering brief trainings that teach learning skills to students directly within their STEM course site during the first weeks of class would encourage undergraduate science learners to adopt effective learning behaviors and improve their achievement on exams. Additional analyses examined benefits to a group underrepresented in the STEM workforce: first-generation college students. Students who spent time completing training made greater use of resources supporting planning, monitoring, and cognitive strategy use and outperformed students in the control group on initial and final exams. Study 2 examined whether the same, domain-general learning skill training could produce effects when placed in a college algebra course. Random assignment to treatment and control was conducted early in the second course unit. Those in the skill training condition outperformed a control group who solved additional algebra problems on the next 2 unit exams. Across studies, effects of training were similar for first-generation and continuing generation students. However, the effects obtained often improved the exam scores of first-generation students from below to above the minimum score which requires course reenrollment and delays STEM degree completion.


Cognitive strategies; Metacognition; Skill training; STEM learning; Academic achievement


Higher Education | Science and Mathematics Education



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