This project investigates students' experience of social-comparison concern -- in particular, the concern over appearing to lack knowledge in front of one's peers -- in a small-group peer learning setting in the STEM disciplines.
In 2011, the Center was awarded a small grant through The Alumnae of Northwestern University to implement a third phase of the study. Data collection is ongoing.
Study 1 (Micari & Drane, 2011. View abstract): This study examined the relationship of social-comparison concern, comfort, and self-efficacy to course performance and program persistence in a small-group learning environment. Two-hundred and five undergraduates in a peer-led, small-group science learning program were surveyed at the beginning and end of the academic term; surveys addressed self-efficacy for the course, comfort participating in the small groups, and concern about comparison with others in the groups.
Study 2: (Micari & Pazos, in press): Building on findings of the previous study, this project used a quasi-experimental design to test methods for reducing social-comparison concern among students in a small-group learning environment. One-hundred and forty-four students were assigned to one of three groups:
- A primary treatment group in which students received information on the nature of intelligence, and encouragement to adopt mastery goals and to persist.
- A secondary treatment group in which students received information on study skills.
- A control group.
Study 1: Results indicated that while social-comparison concern and comfort were unrelated to prior academic preparation (as measured by grade-point average and SAT math score), they were related to self-efficacy, ethnic minority status, and gender, as well as to persistence in the program and final grade.
Study 2: Students in the primary treatment group became less concerned over social comparison than those in the control group; this was not true for the secondary treatment group.
Micari, M., & Drane, D. (2011). Intimidation in small learning groups: the roles of social-comparison concern, comfort, and individual characteristics in student academic outcomes. Active Learning in Higher Education, November 2011:12: 175-187. See publisher’s website.
Micari, M. & Pazos, P. (in press). Worrying about what others think: A social-comparison-concern intervention in small learning groups. Active Learning in Higher Education.