Did you know that a third of minority students leave stem majors? And that’s starting from already low numbers.
Why are minority students leaving the stem field?
It’s not that minority students don’t love science. If you look at young elementary school students you will see almost no difference between the number of white male students interested in science and minority students interested in science. If young students are so interested then, why do more minority students leave than non-minority students?
In order to encourage more people that hold minority identities to enter stem fields, we must first change the culture of the fields they are entering into. As teachers that begins in our classrooms.
This article from the Education Advisory Board discusses research done on why minority students are leaving the stem fields. It is a great place to begin or continue your journey into making the stem community a safer place. Check it out here: https://eab.com/insights/daily-briefing/student-success/a-third-of-minority-students-leave-stem-majors-heres-why/
Creating a Safe and Welcoming Culture Surrounding STEM
Creating a safe and welcoming culture in the STEM fields needs to begin somewhere, so where do we start?
“Administrators need to talk to students, figure out what’s going on in classrooms and how they add to the exclusion these students feel. We have to hone in on the reasons they’re leaving and directly address these issues before solving anything else.”Darryl Dickerson, Associate Director of the Minority Engineering Program at Purdue University
Once we know this issues what can we do?
The Physics Education Research Group at the University of Utah (PERU) has done research on creating an inclusive climate in physics specifically for LGBTQ scientists. Here are some of the recommendations they to the American Physical Society.
- Create a safe and welcoming environment at meetings through creating safe spaces and using inclusive language.
- Create and implement a code of conduct that provides ways for people to report infractions and proper responses to reported infractions
- Advocate for LGBTQ members within the STEM field in the US and in other countries.
- Implement inclusive mentoring programs
- Promote inclusive practices in academia, national labs, and in the STEM industry
- Develop a training program on inclusive workplace practices
- Use site visits to provide feedback on inclusion to physics departments and national labs
If you want to checkout more from the PERU group find them here: https://www.perutah.com/ And you can find the paper referenced above here: https://www.aps.org/programs/lgbt/upload/LGBTClimateinPhysicsReport.pdf
These suggestions are a great place to start! Despite this research being on LGBTQ scientists, their suggestions can be applied to lots of different situations.
Here are some of the steps I will personally take to make my future classroom a safe and welcoming space to those of all identities:
- Include background on scientists that go beyond the idea of a white male with crazy hair
- Make sure all resources and lessons are accessible to students of all abilities
- Introduce students to diverse scientists in their community, including those who are trying to change the culture of the STEM community
- Respect and protect students identities
- Create equal and equitable opportunities for students to thrive
Check out this youtube channel that introduces students to a diverse range of scientists in Cincinnati! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRxGUfqNO_4m_uBxNFo23Jw?view_as=subscriber
And most importantly continue to fight to change the environment that minority students are entering into such that fewer are pushed to leave.
Simply encouraging students to enter the stem field will never be enough if we cannot change the environment they are entering into. In order to help more people with minority identities succeed in the stem field we must create a culture that welcomes and supports minorities.