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By Tabassum Saleem
For science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses to benefit all students, it is imperative for educators to understand how to approach students from diverse backgrounds and encourage them to pursue their educational goals. This case book offers insight into situations that may arise in classrooms owing to the intentional or unintentional actions of peers and/or instructors. It is intended to help educators understand, contemplate and facilitate discussions pertaining to difficult instructional situations.
By allowing the attrition rates of women and minority students to remain high, STEM fields are losing potential opportunities for the advancement of science and technology. Workplaces all over the world require individuals who can communicate and work effectively with people of diverse backgrounds. Moreover, United States demographics are evolving in such a way that the majority of individuals will no longer be of European descent. Hence, STEM educators should take steps to effectively accommodate all students and to make their classrooms welcoming for diverse student audiences.
A common misconception about students who drop out of STEM classes and fields is that these students lack the ability and/or drive to succeed and persist. However, all students in STEM classes and fields indicate that STEM instructional material is often presented in a way that does not engage student creativity or interest. Also, female and underrepresented minority students often encounter a "chilly" environment in STEM courses, which discourages them from persisting. Therefore, it is necessary to improve the quality of science teaching and interpersonal interaction in STEM courses. This requires educators to not only consider curriculum reform, but to also consider how material taught in class can be effectively understood, retained, and applied to real-life situations (Seymour & Hewitt, 1997).
For more information on incorporating diversity into the classroom, curriculum, or teaching and learning practices, as well as approaching difficult situations in classrooms, the following resources may be helpful:
Sellers, S.L., Roberts, J., Giovanetto, L., & Friedrich, K. (2005). Reaching all
students: A resource for teaching in science, technology, engineering &
mathematics. Madison, WI: Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning.
Davis, B. G. (1993). Tools for teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Seymour, E. & Hewitt, N. M. (1997). Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.