Date of Award

Summer 7-31-2023



Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Chemical Sciences (MSCB)



Committee Chair

Dr. Michelle Head

Committee Member

Dr. Carl Saint-Louis

Committee Member

Dr. Kadian Callahan


Student sense of belonging (SoB) and self-efficacy (SE) are necessary aspects of promoting achievement and success in the STEM fields. This study focuses on how learning communities affect students' SoB and SE in relation to STEM as well as demographics, including race, gender, and first-generation status. Students enrolled in either the introductory chemistry lecture or the first-year experience course (students grouped by similar STEM major) were asked to complete a STEM attributes survey (Likert scale) to assess their overall SoB to the university and their chosen major as well as their level of SE in relations to those fields. To predict each student's performance outcomes, our lab sought to analyze any changes in behavior and perception of overall success that may have occurred during the first semester of matriculation. This study also aimed to validate the use of the Belonging Survey and the SE Scale on small sized populations within a sample; in this case, learning communities. Among the 183 students surveyed, with 132 of them being enrolled in a learning community, we discovered that participation in a learning community indeed increased the likelihood of retention in one's chosen STEM field of study. Despite the fact that learning communities were found to statistically increase SoB for the University overall, there were no other statistical changes witnessed at the end of the first semester. Throughout the semester, students within the racial group of PER (persons excluded or misrepresented due to race) were found to experience a greater decrease in belonging in comparison to Historically Represented students (White or Asian) . Furthermore, learning community enrollment had a moderate impact on SE, with females showing statistically lower levels of SE than males. Due to the small population size and limitations of time, future endeavors will involve gathering student feeling and perception in SoB and SE as it pertains to specific STEM fields such as Chemistry. In line with the literature, we believe that STEM identity and the development process also plays a major role in students’ perception of inclusion and confidence in the STEM field. Our lab is interested in identifying and assigning STEM identity status memberships to students based on scoring in several key domains of learning. Findings linked with previous research studies demonstrate the importance of developing a manual method of assigning identity status memberships that corresponds to statistical outputs of identity membership assignments. We are still in the early stages of determining and understanding the exact practices that promote meaningful learning environments. Our goal is to comprehend specific practices that contribute to the study’s findings and evaluate their overall impact.

Included in

Chemistry Commons