Connecting the STEM Curriculum to Diversity and Democracy

Connecting the STEM Curriculum to Diversity and Democracy: Experiences and Practices in Courses Merging STEM and Social Issues that Strengthen Student Training and Diversity

With demographic shifts towards greater diversity in higher education and STEM education, as well as the persistence of complex societal challenges, both students and STEM educators are increasingly interrogating ways to revise STEM curricula to broaden participation and better train future STEM professionals. As demands for inclusivity and civic engagement increases in STEM education, college and universities are expected to seek a balance between the needs of the workforce and democracy. However, few studies have provided empirical evidence on the impact of courses integrating social and civic issues into STEM courses. Prior research studies have largely focused on individual courses and have yet to specifically focus on matters pertaining to racial/ethnic diversity. This project seeks to produce original research that employs novel survey data from students enrolled in these emerging and innovative courses at a wide variety of universities (including Minority Serving Institutions) across the U.S. to examine four questions: (1) What are individual and course factors that affect students’ social and civic outcomes (democratic outcomes) and plans for pursuing STEM degrees? (2) What factors are unique to underrepresented students of color pursuing STEM degrees that can inform course practices that seek to advance their rate of success? (3) To what extent do classroom-level factors determine the likelihood of pursuing or being retained in a STEM field? (4) What are the key characteristics and classroom experiences of students who do not pursue or persist in STEM?

To help the decision-making processes of STEM degree programs and institutions, the proposed project will advance knowledge of: (1) the relationship between content focused on social, civic, and diversity issues in STEM courses and students’ attitudes and career aspirations; (2) the impact of such content in STEM curricula on underrepresented students of color pursuing STEM fields; and (3) teaching and learning experiences in these courses that can both broaden participation and strengthen student training for democracy.