A collaborative initiative to raise awareness of underrepresented persons in STEM fields
To support educators and learners towards a more inclusive and diverse STEM community
In the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter Movement gained momentum on an international scale and demanded that we ask ourselves “what matters?” as individuals and as a collective society. In the 21st century, an undergraduate student can complete a 4-year degree in STEM without encountering a minority instructor, without reading a textbook written by a minority academic scholar, and without learning a theory proposed by a minority scientist. This initiative responds, “representation matters.” The latest data reports that only 22% of science and engineering degrees were received by underrepresented, minority students. This number is reduced to 9% of doctoral science and engineering degrees. In this initiative, we respond, “opportunity matters.” As educators, we responded with the development of intentional curriculum that provides better representation and engagement with students of all backgrounds. The goal of this initiative is to share those experiences, resources and bodies of work with other STEM educators and learners so we may continue to develop and innovate STEM education together.
Guiding Principles of Inclusive Curriculum
Our inclusive curriculum encompasses curricular practices that promote success across all students. The salient characteristics of inclusive practices that we focus on include representation of diverse STEM figures, providing safe spaces for failure, promoting collaboration over competition, and supporting student autonomy. Each of these practices is founded in the literature as ways to support inclusive learning environments.
Highlighting Diverse Figures in STEM
Introducing examples of underrepresented persons in STEM and humanizing them by telling their personal and professional stories, students develop a personal connection to the course material that often does not occur in STEM courses.
Providing Safe Spaces for Failure
The ability to grow from failure, also referred to in the literature as “performance-avoidance,” has been demonstrated to serve as an important predictor of retention of underrepresented students in STEM.
Encouraging Collaboration over Competition
Peer learning and collaborative working have been shown to improve student outcomes, promote inclusion, and have been demonstrated in problem-based learning pedagogies.
Supporting Student Autonomy
Student autonomy is an important predictor of student success and motivation, and it has been demonstrated specifically to improve learning outcomes in underrepresented students.