For the first blog post of the semester, we were asked to discuss why we believe Inclusive Pedagogy and increasing diversity in our discipline matters to us. My discussion here focuses on STEM fields, but the arguments made could apply to any other field.
According to the Center for New Design in Learning and Scholarship, Inclusive Pedagogy is “A student-centered approach to teaching that pays attention to the varied background, learning styles, and abilities of all the learners in front of you. It is a method of teaching in which instructors and students work together to create a supportive and open environment that fosters social justice and allows each individual to be fully present and feel equally valued”. This definition highlights the diversity and inclusion aspects of Inclusive pedagogy. An Inclusive pedagogy should be designed to account for every student’s background (race, religion, sex, … etc.) so as to make them successful. More importantly, such pedagogy has to make all students feel welcomed and accepted (inclusivity).
Inclusive pedagogy will help increase the persistence rate for underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.
It is well documented that students from underrepresented minorities have the lowest persistence rate in undergraduate and graduate programs in the U.S. While the number of students from underrepresented minority groups who enter college has been increasing over the years, only 20% of those students complete a bachelor’s degree, and half of those students go on to complete a graduate training (Asai and Bauerle, 2016). The obvious question that comes to mind is: What is the cause of that low persistence rate? How do we explain that minority students drop out of college? Are they dropping out because they find STEM fields too difficult and can’t meet the GPA requirement? One might even argue that minority students, coming from lower income families, find it difficult to make ends meet and therefore drop out to look for a work. All of these questions show that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why minority students studying a STEM field could drop out from school. However, a minority student is still likely to drop out if she/he does not feel welcomed or accepted in her/his school, or if her environment is not diverse enough for her/him to feel that she belongs there.
Inclusive pedagogy is beneficial for the advancement of science
A faculty from an underrepresented minority ethnic group, who has been a product of Inclusive Pedagogy is likely to be engaged in Inclusion and diversity activities, which will help train more students exposed to Inclusive Pedagogy, and the cycle continues. It’s been proven that a diverse and inclusive scientific community is more productive and innovative (Jimenez et al, 2019). As such, schools should prioritize increasing the diversity of faculty and students and implementing effective Inclusion programs. One way to help engage all students and faculty in those inclusion and diversity programs is to offer more course and workshops related to those topics and require all faculty as part of their tenure track to participate or organize those workshops. All students should be required to attend at least one workshop on Inclusion and Diversity as part of their coursework.
Jimenez, M. F., Laverty, T. M., Bombaci, S. P., Wilkins, K., Bennett, D. E., & Pejchar, L. (2019). Underrepresented faculty play a disproportionate role in advancing diversity and inclusion. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3(7), 1030–1033. doi:10.1038/s41559-019-0911-5
Asai, David J. and Bauerle, C. (2016). From HHMI: Doubling Down on Diversity. Undergraduate and Graduate Science Education Programs, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, MD 20815-6789