Selected Publications

Henry, M.A., Shorter, S., Charkoudian, L. K, Heemstra, L. M., Le, B., & Corwin, L. A. (in press) Quantifying fear of failure in STEM: Modifying and evaluating the Performance Failure Appraisal Inventory (PFAI) for use with STEM undergraduates, International Journal of STEM Education.

  • The ability to navigate obstacles and embrace iteration following failure is a hallmark of a scientific disposition and is hypothesized to increase students’ persistence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). However, this ability is often not explicitly explored or addressed by STEM instructors. Recent collective interest brought together STEM instructors, psychologists, and education researchers through the National Science Foundation (NSF) research collaborative FLAMEnet to investigate intrapersonal elements (e.g., individual differences, affect, motivation, etc.) that may influence students’ STEM persistence. One such element is fear of failure (FF), a complex interplay of emotion and cognition occurring when a student believes they may not be able to meet the needs of an achievement context. A validated measure for assessing FF, the Performance Failure Appraisal Inventory (PFAI) exists in the psychological literature. However, this measure was validated in community, athletic, and general undergraduate samples, which may not accurately reflect the motivations, experiences, and diversity of undergraduate STEM students. Given the potential role of FF in STEM student persistence and motivation, we felt it important to determine if this measure accurately assessed FF for STEM undergraduates, and if not, how we could improve upon or adapt it for this purpose. Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis and cognitive interviews, we re-validated the PFAI with a sample of undergraduates enrolled in STEM courses, primarily introductory biology and chemistry. Results indicate that a modified 15-item four factor structure is more appropriate for assessing levels of FF in STEM students, particularly among those from groups underrepresented in STEM. Additionally, data suggest that using the previously validated measure may significantly misrepresent levels of FF in the STEM context. This paper details our collaborative validation process and discusses implications of the results for choosing, using, and interpreting psychological assessment tools within STEM undergraduate populations.

Limeri, L. B., Chen Musgrove, M. M., Henry, M.A., & Schussler, E. (2020). Interventions to motivate engagement in teaching professional development: A proposal to leverage psychosocial intervention research to reform undergraduate teaching practices, CBE-Life Sciences Education, 19(3):es10, 1-12.

  • To promote undergraduate education reform, teaching professional development (TPD) efforts aim to encourage instructors to adopt evidence-based practices. However, many instructors do not attend TPD. There may be many reasons for this, including low intrinsic motivation to participate in TPD. Psychologists have dealt with motivational barriers in educational contexts using psychosocial interventions, brief activities that draw on a rich history of psychological research to subtly alter key, self-reinforcing psychological processes to yield long-term intrinsic motivation and behavioral changes. Psychosocial interventions, for example, have been used to alter students’ noncognitive attitudes and beliefs, such as attributions and mindset, which positively influence students’ motivation and academic performance. Here, we propose that insights from research on psychosocial interventions may be leveraged to design interventions that will increase instructors’ motivation to participate in TPD, thus enhancing existing pedagogical reform efforts. We discuss psychological principles and “best practices” underlying effective psychosocial interventions that could guide the development of interventions to increase instructors’ motivation to attend TPD. We encourage new interdisciplinary research collaborations to explore the potential of these interventions, which could be a new approach to mitigating at least one barrier to undergraduate education reform.

Dolan, E. L., Borrero, M., Callis-Duehl, K., Chen, M., de Lima, J., Ero-Tolliver, I, Gerhart, L. M., Goodwin, E. C., Hamilton, L. R., Henry, M. A., Herrera, J., Huot, B., Kiser, S., Ko, M., Kravec, M. E., Lee, M., Limeri, L. B., Peffer, M. E., Pires, D., Ramirez Lugo, J. S., Sharp, S. M, & Suarez, N.A. (2020). Undergraduate Biology Education Gordon Research Conference: A meeting report, CBE-Life Sciences Education, 19(2):mr1, 1-8.

  • The 2019 Undergraduate Biology Education Research Gordon Research Conference (UBER GRC), titled “Achieving Widespread Improvement in Undergraduate Education,” brought together a diverse group of researchers and practitioners working to identify, promote, and understand widespread adoption of evidence-based teaching, learning, and success strategies in undergraduate biology. Graduate students and postdocs had the additional opportunity to present and discuss research during a Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) that preceded the GRC. This report provides a broad overview of the UBER GRC and GRS and highlights major themes that cut across invited talks, poster presentations, and informal discussions. Such themes include the importance of working in teams at multiple levels to achieve instructional improvement, the potential to use big data and analytics to inform instructional change, the need to customize change initiatives, and the importance of psychosocial supports in improving undergraduate student well-being and academic success. The report also discusses the future of the UBER GRC as an established meeting and describes aspects of the conference that make it unique, both in terms of facilitating dissemination of research and providing a welcoming environment for conferees.

Henry, M.A., Shorter, S., Charkoudian, L., Heemstra, L. M., & Corwin, L. A. (2019). FAIL is not a four-letter word: A theoretical framework for exploring undergraduate students’ approaches to academic challenge and responses to failure in STEM learning environments. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 18(ar11), 1-17).

  • Navigating scientific challenges, persevering through difficulties, and coping with failure are considered hallmarks of a successful scientist. However, relatively few studies investigate how undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students develop these skills and dispositions or how instructors can facilitate this development in undergraduate STEM learning contexts. This is a critical gap, because the unique cultures and practices found in STEM classrooms are likely to influence how students approach challenges and deal with failures, both during their STEM education and in the years that follow. To guide research aimed at understanding how STEM students develop a challenge-engaging disposition and the ability to adaptively cope with failure, we generate a model representing hypotheses of how students might approach challenges and respond to failures in undergraduate STEM learning contexts. We draw from theory and studies investigating mindset, goal orientations, attributions, fear of failure, and coping to inform our model. We offer this model as a tool for the community to test, revise, elaborate, or refute. Finally, we urge researchers and educators to consider the development, implementation, and rigorous testing of interventions aimed at helping students develop a persevering and challenge-engaging disposition within STEM contexts.

Fang, K., Henry, M., Sconyers, H., & Goldstein, J. (2008). Effects of perceived religiosity on judgments of social competence toward individuals with mental illness. Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research, 13(4), 191-197.

  • This study examined mental illness stigma and its relationships to 1) type of mental disorder and 2) the social involvement of those with mental illness . Fifty college subjects were asked to read vignettes describing a character who had either schizophrenia or depression, and who was depicted as either active in their church, active in the community, or whose activities were not mentioned. Perceptions of the characters’ social competence were measured using a Judgment of Social Competence Questionnaire. Results demonstrated a significant effect for type of social involvement on judgment of social competence, but no such effect for type of mental disorder. Due to the occurrence of the Virginia Tech Massacre in the middle of the study, the effect of this event on stigmatizing attitudes was also examined.

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