The Impact of Culturally Responsive Teaching on Underrepresented Students Persistence in STEM: Culturally Responsive Instructional Strategies

The Impact of Culturally Responsive Teaching on Underrepresented Students Persistence in STEM: Culturally Responsive Instructional Strategies

Misty S. Thomas (Auburn University, USA) and Lucretia O. Tripp (Auburn University, USA)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9026-3.ch042
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There is a consistent economic need to increase diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines and to increase diversity in groups of STEM professionals graduating from colleges and universities in our nation. However, research notates that minoritized populations such as women and/or persons of color, continue to be underrepresented in STEM disciplines. Furthermore, literature suggests that teachers who implement culturally responsive instructional strategies in the classroom positively impact and empower students to develop positive attitudes towards STEM, hence aiding in an increase in the recruitment and retainment of underrepresented groups in STEM disciplines or STEM-related careers. This book chapter will trace research and provide culturally responsive teaching strategies, lesson plan adaptation strategies, and instructional practices that can be used in STEM classrooms in an effort to positively influence underrepresented student's decisions to persist in STEM careers and/or STEM-related fields.
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Research supports the notion that there is an alarming decline in the representation of women and minorities in STEM fields and their decisions to work in STEM disciplines due to disconnections that occur between students’ elementary and middle school years (Braund & Reiss, 2006; MacPhee, Farro, & Canetto, 2013; Carlone, Scott, & Lowder, 2014; Fisher et al., 2019). Data reports that early interest in STEM is directly linked with whether or not students pursue a STEM major in higher education (Phelan, Harding, & Harper-Leatherman, 2017). Minority groups or underrepresented minority groups (URMs) such as Women, Black/African Americans, Latino/a/x, and American Indian/Alaska Natives represent under 10% of STEM scholars in higher education (Fisher et al., 2019). Although other research has shown that there have been some gains and improvements in representation of URMs in STEM fields, these gains have stagnated over time (Nassar-McMillan, Wyer, Oliver-Hoyo, & Schneider, 2011). For instance, African Americans held 3,077 of 62,356 awarded engineering bachelor’s degrees in the United States (U.S.) in 1997; and 3,097 of 78,099 awarded engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2011 (as cited by the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering [NACME], 2014). According to NACME (2014), African Americans represented only 3.6% of employed engineers in 2010 and 2.5% of engineering faculty in 2011. Furthermore, Nassar-McMillan et al. (2011), reported that woman held 49 percent of doctoral degrees in science and engineering between 1997 and 2006. However, these gains among URMs seemed to only be ubiquitous in specific STEM disciplines such as psychology, biology, health sciences, and the social sciences and still remain limited in STEM disciplines such as physics, computers science, and engineering (Nassar-McMillan et al., 2011; Dika & D’Amico, 2015). NSF (2013) later reported that a lack of diverse representation in these fields cause significant barriers for college students to have access to diverse role models from STEM-related disciplines in higher education. According to NSF (2017), underrepresented men and women have still only earned 11.8% and 8.4% of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees as of the year 2014. In addition, NSF (2015) reported that 70% of workers in science and engineering occupations were White in 2013.

Consequently, the lack of representation in STEM is an issue of critical importance. The need for a prolific and diverse STEM-educated workforce is imperative as the United States and other countries aim to keep stride with advances in STEM both locally and globally (Xie & Shauman, 2003; Pierszalowski, Vue, & Bouwma-Gearhart, 2018). According to the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) 2013, one of the pathways for increasing representation in STEM degree programs and STEM-related careers is through teaching pedagogy that guides future implementation efforts in the classroom. Specifically, teachers should be trained to fully engage in STEM subjects to improve students’ experience of, and attainment in STEM (Royal Society Science Policy Centre, 2014). Teachers hold a high responsibility to capture and ignite the talent and creativity of students throughout elementary and secondary school to promote and help increase an ethnically and culturally diverse scientific workforce (Graham, Frederick, Byars-Winston, Hunter, & Handelsman, 2013).

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