A social-belonging intervention improves STEM outcomes for students who speak English as a second language

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Science Advances  02 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 40, eabb6543
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb6543


Students who speak English as a second language (ESL) are underserved and underrepresented in postsecondary science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. To date, most existing research with ESL students in higher education is qualitative. Drawing from this important body of work, we investigate the impact of a social-belonging intervention on anticipated changes in belonging, STEM GPA, and proportion of STEM credits obtained in students’ first semester and first year of college. Using data from more than 12,000 STEM-interested students at 19 universities, results revealed that the intervention increased ESL students’ anticipated sense of belonging and three of the four academic outcomes. Moreover, anticipated changes in belonging mediated the intervention’s effects on these academic outcomes. Robustness checks revealed that ESL effects persisted even when controlling for other identities correlated with ESL status. Overall, results suggest that anticipated belonging is an understudied barrier to creating a multilingual and diverse STEM workforce.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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