Collaborative Research: Using a Self-Guided Online Intervention to Address Student Fear of Negative Evaluation in Active Learning Undergraduate Biology Courses

Project: Research project

Project Details


Collaborative Research: Using a Self-Guided Online Intervention to Address Student Fear of Negative Evaluation in Active Learning Undergraduate Biology Courses Collaborative Research: Equipping biology undergraduates with skills to cope with fear of negative evaluation in active learning classrooms through a Single Session Intervention Overview: Increasingly, college biology courses are transitioning from traditional lecture to active learning because students learn more and fail less when they are engaged in the process of learning through student-centered activities and discussion. However, students fear of negative evaluation (FNE), defined as a sense of dread associated with being unfavorably evaluated while participating in a social situation, shapes many of their experiences in active learning courses. This is because in active learning students often encounter social evaluative situations, which are social interactions where the student may perceive they are negatively evaluated by others. For example, students are often asked to talk with their neighbor, discuss a topic in a small group, and participate in whole class discussions. Indeed, students with fear of negative evaluation are often reluctant to engage in active learning activities where their contributions may be judged by the instructor and/or their peers. Those who are required to participate report that fear of negative evaluation hinders their abilities to think through science problems and articulate their thoughts about science. This collaborative IUSE track 1 proposal aims to develop a brief online Single-Session Intervention (SSI) to help undergraduates cope with fear of negative evaluation. Online SSIs have been developed by clinical psychologists to help K-16 students cope with distress, setbacks, and negative emotions. The self-guided SSI developed in this project will be a brief (< 30 minute) online activity comprised of evidence-based program components drawn from research in clinical, social, and educational psychology. Students will be guided to read neuroscience-based explanations underlying new coping skills to strengthen message credibility and buy-in; hear personal narratives from same-aged peers illustrating the use of coping skills in everyday life; and receive opportunities to teach peers by writing narratives of their own about how to use their newly gleaned coping skills to cope with future stressors. Single-Session Interventions are designed for both scalability and accessibility: they are easy to administer, independent of the instructor, freely available, can be completed anytime and at any location by the intended user, and can be delivered to students at scale. Intellectual Merit: This proposal aims to develop and test a Single-Session Intervention to help students cope with fear of negative evaluation, a common emotion experienced by biology students in active learning classrooms. Aim 1 is to create and pilot an online SSI that leverages students interest in biology to help students cope with fear of negative evaluation in the context of active learning biology courses. Aim 2 is to conduct a large, randomized controlled trial across multiple introductory biology courses at one large diverse and non-selective institution to assess the impact of the SSI on (1) student fear of negative evaluation and other affective outcomes, (2) student performance outcomes, and (3) student persistence outcomes. Machine-learning will be used to identify for whom the intervention is most effective, with particular attention to examining the impact on students with underrepresented and underserved identities in science. Broader Impacts: This project has the potential to help students cope with student fear of negative evaluation, which over 90% of undergraduate life sciences majors report experiencing in the context of science courses. Further, fear of negative evaluation has been shown to disproportionately affect students who are underrepresented or underserved in the sciences including women, first-generation college students, and LGBTQ+ students. As such, equipping students with skills to cope with fear of negative evaluation via a free, self-guided online intervention that can be posted on a website for anyone to use has the potential to change who is participating in active learning classrooms and whose voices are heard in science. Finally, these coping skills will empower students across the sciences to meaningfully engage in not only the social evaluative situations they will face during their undergraduate years, but also the social evaluative situations they will encounter throughout their careers.
Effective start/end date1/1/2212/31/24


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $130,214.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.