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Employers continue to seek students who possess problem solving skills. This need has implications for how higher education faculty teach their classes. This study focused on determining how using student-centered teaching techniques, such as think-pair-share and peer-instruction, impacted students’ (both graduates and undergraduates) levels of confidence and competence in performing STEM skills in a college-level course. In general, graduate students experienced higher levels of confidence at performing tasks related to the class than did their undergraduate counterparts. However, self-efficacy was a poor predictor of student success in the class, as weak correlations existed between their confidence and competence. When asked to perform simpler tasks, such as defining key terms, students were over-confident in their ability to do so correctly. When asked to perform more complex tasks, such as mathematical calculations to quantify a property or process of interest, students were under-confident in their ability. Overall, however, in-class interactions using student-centered teaching techniques helped improve student performance in the class, especially with undergraduate students, whose quiz scores improved more than graduate student scores following such interactions. This study supports the use of student-centered teaching on students’ confidence and competence at performing STEM-related processes in higher education settings.
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