Faculty Professional Development for Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in STEM Higher Education: Examining the TIDES Model

Faculty Professional Development for Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in STEM Higher Education: Examining the TIDES Model

Kelly M. Mack (Association of American Colleges and Universities, USA), Kate Winter (Kate Winter Evaluation, LLC, USA) and Claudia M. Rankins (National Science Foundation, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5557-6.ch008
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This chapter showcases the purpose, activities, and outcomes of the Teaching to Increase Diversity and Equity in STEM (TIDES) faculty professional development program, which significantly increased both faculty skill level and confidence with implementing culturally responsive pedagogies in the computer/information science disciplines. Starting with the structure of the application process, TIDES intentionally created an effective learning environment where computer and information science faculty could not only learn about culturally relevant teaching practices and the need for them, but also unlearn what they may have absorbed about historical inequities in society and higher education and address their implicit biases about who can and should succeed in STEM. Evaluative data indicate that TIDES exceeded all its target outcomes, so this chapter is shared to support the replication of a proven practice of professional development to foster culturally responsive pedagogy among STEM faculty and, therefore, to support the recruitment and retention of diverse students in STEM.
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Every three minutes, at least one undergraduate student majoring in a STEM field at a four-year U.S. college or university either changes their major to a non-STEM discipline or withdraws from the institution altogether (National Science Board, 2018). This contemporary reality manifests as a loss of more than 310,000 undergraduates from the U.S. STEM enterprise every academic year. It is particularly acute for new majority students (Schneider, 2014)—especially Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Native Alaskan—who arguably constitute the largest untapped source of STEM talent in our country.

According to 2014 U.S. Census data (National Science Foundation, 2017), among 18–24-year-olds, 14.8%, 21.1%, and 0.9% are Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Native Alaskan, respectively. Even considering that some may opt out of college completely, individuals in this age group should still account for roughly twice as many degrees as were awarded to them between 2004 and 2014. As noted in Figure 1, this means that 95,000 more undergraduate STEM degrees should have been awarded to Blacks students, 140,000 more to Hispanic students, and 6,000 more to American Indian/Native Alaskan students.

Figure 1.

Number of STEM undergraduate degrees awarded in the U.S. by year (NSF 2017)


While strategies to improve the retention of undergraduate STEM students have received considerable attention (Tsui, 2007), most have perpetuated deficit models and resulted in mere workaround efforts focused almost entirely on “fixing” the students, rather than addressing the sociopolitical and institutional systems and structures that continue to exclude them from STEM and, thereby, from a better quality of life. The Teaching to Increase Diversity and Equity in STEM (TIDES) initiative of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (Mack et al., 2019) is grounded in the understanding that decades of these efforts to fix students has not only failed to move the proverbial “needle,” but also threatens future U.S. global competitiveness in science and technology. With its innovative, virtuous approach to STEM faculty professional development, TIDES has established an effective means of addressing a root cause of the underrepresentation of new majority students, believed to rest within the inherent beliefs, values, and traditions of U.S. higher education institutions, the STEM departments that reside in them, and the individual STEM faculty responsible for sustaining their vitality, even as the landscape demographics shift.

To that end, our chapter begins with a departure from the traditional mode, which would unduly attribute the current underrepresented status of diverse students in STEM—and, more specifically, in the computer/information sciences—to impaired student aptitude, motivation, or social capital. Rather, our chapter begins with the premise that the national imperative for greater focus on developing a competitive and diverse STEM workforce extends far beyond the students themselves, to the faculty who bear the responsibility for ensuring their learning, development, and socialization into the discipline. However, support for STEM faculty has become complicated by sociopolitical factors that include: (1) the all-but-absent reliance on social-justice themes to inform professional-development interventions; (2) an ever-increasing need for a competitively trained and liberally educated workforce in the computer and information sciences (Evans et al., 2013; National Science Foundation [NSF], 2017); and (3) the perpetual systemic exclusion of underrepresented groups from opportunities that could afford them meaningful participation in STEM and, thereby, access to a better quality of life in America (Schneider, 2014; Van Der Werf & Sabatier, 2009). Against this backdrop, the motivation and mission of TIDES—to increase Computer Science (CS) faculty self-efficacy in engaging in culturally responsive pedagogical practices—is set forth as a means of effectively recruiting and retaining diverse undergraduate CS students, and, thereby, the diversity of our nation’s STEM workforce.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Broadening Participation: The acts associated with discovering and nurturing talent, particularly among individuals from racial and/or ethnic minority populations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.

STEM: The acronym for fields of study related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT): A systems-thinking approach to understanding interventions in the full context in which they take place.

Self-Efficacy: Belief in one’s ability or capacity to succeed in accomplishing a specific task or set of tasks.

Computer/Information Sciences: The related studies of computing and informatics that are associated with installing and maintaining computer systems, as well as using mathematical algorithms to program them efficiently.

Culturally Responsive Teaching: A style of teaching that meaningfully considers the racial and/or cultural differences of students’ lived experiences.

New Majority Students: Individuals from racially/ethnically diverse, low socioeconomic, and/or non-traditional backgrounds who now comprise the majority of undergraduate students in US institutions of higher education.

Representation Index: The percent representation of a group in some category as a function of the percent representation of that same group in the U.S. population.

Virtuous STEM Faculty Professional Development: Professional development frameworks, curricula, and activities that wholly consider the humanity, consciousness, and lived experience of individuals who teach science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at the postsecondary level.

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