When compared to traditional recommendations for extracurricular engagement, can a social belonging intervention improve General Chemistry students’ learning outcomes and bolster their interest in STEM and pre-health career paths?

The Social Belonging in General Chemistry project constitutes the second installment of a collaboration between CIRCLE and the Department of Chemistry, which aims to help first-year Chemistry students navigate the transition into college-level science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses. This study in the second semester of General Chemistry (Chemistry 112) complements our recent Growth Mindset study in the first semester of General Chemistry (Chemistry 111).

Study Overview

Psychology and education research has shown that having a sense of belonging in their classes and career path can help students succeed. However, this sense of belonging can be difficult to achieve, especially among students who are less prepared for college or who belong to groups that are under-represented in higher education. Following previous research, we developed a novel social belonging intervention, which uses authentic peer testimonials to convey that it is common for students to experience uncertainty about belonging and that those feelings tend to improve over time. The intervention draws on interviews of upper-year students and STEM and healthcare professionals who graduated from the Department of Chemistry at Wash U. It will be administered for the first time in spring semester of 2018. We will evaluate the intervention’s effectiveness by examining participants’ Chemistry 112 final exam performance, their self-reported feelings of belonging in chemistry and STEM, and their persistence into subsequent STEM courses.


John Bleeke (Chemistry)
Julio D’Arcy (Chemistry)
Megan Daschbach (Chemistry)
Angela Fink (CIRCLE)
Gina Frey (CIRCLE, Chemistry)
Jia Luo (Chemistry)
Mark McDaniel (CIRCLE, Psychological and Brain Sciences)
Gabriela Szteinberg (Chemistry)