Impactful SoTL articles

Below are some examples of impactful SoTL studies from recent years. We will gradually add to this curated list over time. Let us know about your own favorite SoTL studies by contacting a member of the Rice Center staff.

Benefits of active learning

Deslauriers et al. (2011). Improved Learning in a Large-Enrollment Physics Class. Science 332: 862-864. In a controlled experiment, students in a Physics course featuring active learning strategies compared with students in a Physics course featuring traditional lectures exhibited increased student attendance, higher engagement, and more than twice the learning. 

Deslauriers et al. (2019). Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom. PNAS 116(39):19251-19257. Students in an active learning classroom learn more than students in a traditional passive lecture classroom, however, they feel that they learn less. This negative correlation is caused in part by the increased cognitive effort required during active learning. Faculty who adopt active learning are encouraged to intervene and address this misperception. 

Freeman et al. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. PNAS 111(23):8410-8415. This meta-analysis suggests that active learning leads to increases in exam performance that would raise average grades by half a letter. Failure rates under traditional lecturing increase by 55% over the rates  observed under active learning. 

Promotion of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility

Estefan et al. (2023). From inclusive to equitable pedagogy: How to design course assignments and learning activities that address structural inequalities. Teaching Sociology 51(3) 262-274. This article develops a framework for designing assignments and learning activities that addresses structural barriers that most affect first-generation, working-class, and racially minoritized students. The authors identify three distinct types of structural disadvantages (academic inequities, resource disadvantages, and cultural discrimination) and propose strategies for equitable design.

Theobald et al. (2014). Active learning narrows achievement gaps for underrepresented students in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math. PNAS 117(12): 6476-6483. Active learning reduces achievement gaps in exam scores and course passing rates. Active learning benefits all students but offers disproportionate benefits for individuals from underrepresented groups. Widespread implementation of high-quality active learning can help reduce or eliminate achievement gaps in STEM courses and promote equity in higher education.

Effects of promoting a growth mindset

Claro et al. (2016). Growth mindset tempers the effects of poverty on academic achievement. PNAS 113(31): 8664-8668. In this study using a nationwide sample of high school students from Chile, the authors show that family income is a strong predictor of achievement and that having a growth mindset (the belief that intelligence is not fixed and can be developed) is a comparably strong predictor of achievement. Students from lower-income families are less likely to have a growth mindset than wealthier peers, but those who do show higher academic achievement.

Yeager et al. (2019). A national experiment reveals where a growth mindset improves achievement. Nature 573: 364-369. A short (less than one hour) online growth mindset intervention that teaches that intellectual abilities can be developed improves grades among lower-achieving students and increases overall enrollment in advanced courses. The intervention especially changed grades when peer norms aligned with the messages of the intervention.