Professional workshops aimed at increasing student diversity typically urge college-level science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) educators to implement inclusive teaching practices. A model of the process by which educators adopt such practices, and the relationship between adoption and 2 ideologies of diversity is tested here.
Women who start college in one of the natural or physical sciences leave in greater proportions than their male peers. The reasons for this difference are complex, and one possible contributing factor is the social environment women experience in the classroom. Using social network analysis, we explore how gender influences the confidence that college-level biology students have in each other's mastery of biology. Results reveal that males are more likely than females to be named by peers as being knowledgeable about the course content. This effect increases as the term progresses, and persists even after controlling for class performance and outspokenness.
Recruiting more female faculty has been suggested as a policy option for addressing gender disparities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields given its ability to engage female students through a role model effect. While a small but growing body of literature has examined the role of instructor gender at the higher education level, it typically focuses only on academic outcomes. This paper utilizes a unique data set that includes not only information about student course performance in STEM but also a number of motivation-related measures. We find that having a female instructor narrows the gender gap in terms of engagement and interest; further, both female and male students tend to respond to instructor gender. We conclude by discussing the policy implications of these findings.
Community cultural wealth, or the types of cultural capital that students of color employ, has been used to understand the persistence of students of color in engineering. The assets‐based theory of community cultural wealth helps identify the cultural resources that these students develop in their families and communities and bring to engineering. This theory problematizes the experiences of students of color in the context of an educational system designed for White males.
Stereotype management is introduced to explain high achievement and resilience among 23 Black mathematics and engineering college students. Characterized as a tactical response to ubiquitous forms of racism and racialized experiences across school and non-school contexts, stereotype management emerged along overlapping paths of racial, gender, and mathematics identity development. Interviews revealed that although stereotype management facilitated success in these domains, the students maintained an intense and perpetual state of awareness that their racial identities and Blackness are undervalued and constantly under assault within mathematics and engineering contexts.
Every physics teacher wants to give his or her students the opportunity to learn physics well. Despite these intentions, certain groups of students—including women and underrepresented minorities1 (URMs)—are not taking and not remaining in physics. In many cases, these disturbing trends are more significant in physics than in any other science. This is a missed opportunity for our discipline because demographic diversity strengthens science. The question is what we can do about these trends in our classrooms, as very few physics teachers have been explicitly prepared to address them. In this article, I will share some steps that I've taken in my classroom that have moved my class in the right direction.
Even after you have decided to tackle a problem like racial equity, it may seem daunting to broach the subject in a physics classroom. After all, the idea of a (typically White) instructor in power tackling a sensitive topic such as social justice can be scary in any (mostly White) classroom. Not only that, but physics is typically viewed as a “culture with no culture.” The physicist’s quest for objectivity, along with a general focus on a fixed set of laws and formulae, support the treatment of this subject as untouched by people. Sometimes it is easier to ignore the problem and just focus on the Conservation of Energy Principle. However, ignoring the striking underrepresentation of ethnic/racial minorities and women in both the physics classroom and the field at large is a great disservice to all our students. We take the position that the persistence of representation disparities in physics is evidence that culture plays a role in who and what is involved in physics.Instructors have an opportunity to explicitly address the absence of equitable circumstances in classrooms and highlight the obstacles that contribute to the disparity (e.g., varied access to learning opportunities and support structures, dominant cultural norms, stereotype threat, implicit bias, hidden curricula, etc.).
Physics and physics education in the United States suffer from severe (and, in some cases, worsening) underrepresentation of Black, Latinx, and Native American people of all genders and women of all races and ethnicities. In this paper, we describe an approach to facilitating physics students’ collective and continued education about such underrepresentation; its connections to racism, sexism, and other dimensions of marginalization; and models of allyship that may bring about social change within physics. Specifically, we focus on the efforts of undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdocs who are members of a student-run diversity-oriented organization in the physics department at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU), a large, selective, predominantly White public university with high research activity. This group’s education was accomplished through quarterly Diversity Workshops.
The underrepresentation of women and people of color in physics has been attributed to a wide variety of factors ranging from society-wide conditions such as income inequality and sparse role models, to daily interpersonal interactions that disadvantage or discourage women and people of color from pursuing physics. These factors may be seen as manifestations of White and/or male privilege: social, economic, educational, or political advantages that are made available to Whites and males on the basis of their social identity. White male privilege pervades the discipline of physics as well as the classrooms in which physics is taught and learned. For example, physics is portrayed in textbooks as the product of individual great men, independent of all social or political contexts, rather than as being shaped by the culture of the European Enlightenment (among other cultures) or the conditions during specific international conflicts. Countering racism and sexism in physics, as in society, will require action at national, institutional, and interpersonal levels. We take the perspective that the path toward reconciliation and equity is to support instructors who identify as members of dominant groups—for this paper, White and/or male instructors—in recognizing their own privilege, coping with the discomfort of unfair advantage, and coming to see themselves as agents of change who can contribute to the disruption of systems of unfair advantage
Female African Americans comprise an underrepresented group in physics-focused careers. Between 2002 and 2012 African-American women comprised approximately 1% of graduating physics majors in the United States.1 It appears that at some point in their educational careers, many female African-American students stop considering the field of physics as being a viable or attractive option. One approach to garnering a greater understanding of this phenomenon is to specifically look into the impact of their self-belief; this encompasses students’ attitudes, self-concept, and self-efficacy. Self-concept refers to how one views one’s own strengths and weaknesses, while self-efficacy refers to one’s capacity to believe in one’s own abilities to succeed in specific situations. There does not yet exist a large body of research that specifically concentrates on middle and high school-aged female African Americans, low physics representation, and its connection to self-belief related to physics. In this instance, the question is: “Do these students believe they can succeed in physics?” This research investigates the levels of physics self-belief of female African Americans who are enrolled in middle and high school physics.
In this paper, I will apply a counter-storytelling method to highlight a perspective that is not often present in the physics culture. The counter-storytelling (or counter-narrative) method gives voice to people from traditionally marginalized groups to share their untold experiences. Counter-storytelling, as the name implies, challenges common social views and ideas, and, in this paper, highlights the need for changes in the current physics culture. At a young age, I was never encouraged to go into a STEM field. I have always leaned more towards math and science, but I never thought of a science-related career until my sister inspired me in high school. I later realized that in STEM fields, people can let their imaginations run wild, making new observations and discoveries every day. And yet, amid pursuing these wonderful opportunities, individuals from groups underrepresented in STEM fields face challenging situations imposed by those surrounding them in the field. My physics instructor once told me that some people have their lives set on a more difficult mode than others because of their background and identities. As a Latina student whose family is from México, I have come to know an unfortunate truth: my gender, ethnicity, cultural background, and status create barriers for me. This has been the case throughout my life, but most especially in my journey pursuing an undergraduate STEM degree. Because of this, I want others to know my challenging experiences in education and how they have affected me. By sharing my story, I hope to encourage others to work for change in the STEM fields and in the classroom.
An active learning physics course (treatment) was re-organized in an attempt to increase students' problem solving abilities. This re-organized course covered all of the relevant concepts in the first 6 weeks with the final 4 weeks spent in practice at solving complicated problems (those requiring students to use higher order cognitive abilities). A second active learning course (control) was taught in the same quarter by the same instructor using the same curricular materials but covering material in the standard (chapter-by-chapter) order. After accounting for incoming student characteristics, students from the treatment course scored significantly better than the control for two outcome measures: i) the final exam and ii) their immediately subsequent physics course. More importantly, students from minority groups who are underrepresented in physics had final exam scores as well as class grades that were indistinguishable from the rest of their class if and only if they were in the treatment class.
A number of cultural, social, environmental, and biological factors have been suggested to explain women’s relatively lower representation in physics and other science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Given its persistence, the causes of gender disparities are likely to be complex and multiply determined. In this review paper, we discuss how a sense of belonging relates to women’s interest, persistence, and achievement in physics. We explore what it means to “fit in” and belong in academic contexts, the situational and interpersonal antecedents to belonging, and the consequences of a lack of belonging. We review the empirical evidence for the efficacy of interventions designed to bolster a sense of belonging. Based on these interventions we conclude the paper with a number of practical recommendations to affirm women’s sense of belonging and create more welcoming and inclusive physics environments for all students.