Student learning dispositions: Multidimensional profiles highlight important differences among undergraduate stem honors thesis writers

Jason E. Dowd, Robert J. Thompson, Leslie Schiff, Kelaine Haas, Christine Hohmann, Chris Roy, Warren Meck, John Bruno, Julie A. Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Various personal dimensions of students—particularly motivation, self-efficacy beliefs, and epistemic beliefs—can change in response to teaching, affect student learning, and be conceptualized as learning dispositions. We propose that these learning dispositions serve as learning outcomes in their own right; that patterns of interrelationships among these specific learning dispositions are likely; and that differing constellations (or learning disposition profiles) may have meaningful implications for instructional practices. In this observational study, we examine changes in these learning dispositions in the context of six courses at four institutions designed to scaffold undergraduate thesis writing and promote students’ scientific reasoning in writing in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We explore the utility of cluster analysis for generating meaningful learning disposition profiles and building a more sophisticated understanding of students as complex, multidimensional learners. For example, while students’ self-efficacy beliefs about writing and science increased across capstone writing courses on average, there was considerable variability at the level of individual students. When responses on all of the personal dimensions were analyzed jointly using cluster analysis, several distinct and meaningful learning disposition profiles emerged. We explore these profiles in this work and discuss the implications of this framework for describing developmental trajectories of students’ scientific identities. We thank Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel for her insights regarding our statistical analyses. This research was funded by National Science Foundation award DUE-1525602.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberar28
JournalCBE life sciences education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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