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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads Appendix F Ingredients for Success in STEM There is no single pathway or pipeline in STEM education. Students start from diverse places, with different family backgrounds and schools and communities with different resources and traditions. There is substantial variation in mathematics and science education—particularly at the K-12 level across schools, districts, and states—with the range of variation reflecting everything from different approaches to teaching and learning mathematics in elementary school to the chasm between those who favor evolution and those who espouse creationism or intelligent design. STEM courses, moreover, may serve varied purposes for students on different tracks: Students differ in their fields of study—social sciences, psychology, mathematics, computer science, natural sciences, engineering—each of which has its own traditions, culture, educational progressions, and career paths. Students differ in terms of intended occupation, both by sector (academe, industry, nonprofit, government) and level of education (associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate). Some students take mathematics and science courses never intending to major in a STEM field or work in a STEM occupation but nevertheless seek to be math and science literate. All of this is to say, paths that start from places as varied as inner-city neighborhoods and wealthy suburbs and lead to jobs as divergent as those
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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads of a java programmer with a bachelor’s degree and an academic biomedical researcher with a doctorate are very different paths even though we collectively group them as within the term STEM “pathway.” To assess the journey of underrepresented minorities in STEM education, a review of what it takes to become a scientist or engineer can set up a framework for understanding how to help underrepresented minorities navigate whatever STEM pathway they are on. While a set of pathways may be difficult to describe in detail, there are nonetheless ingredients for success in STEM that can be discussed, principally: The acquisition of knowledge, skills, and habits of mind; Opportunities to put these into practice; A developing sense of competence, confidence, and progress; Motivation to be in, a sense of belonging to, or self-identification with the field; and Information about stages, requirements, and opportunities. These ingredients are present and require attention in some measure at every stage along the STEM educational continuum. Later, as one gets closer to entering the workforce, an additional ingredient may be a sense that, in a practical manner, the demands and benefits of the profession fit with one’s lifestyle (e.g., provide a desired income level or work-life balance). KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, AND HABITS OF MIND Knowledge, skills, and habits of mind are developed over time. Children enter elementary school as capable and generally enthusiastic science learners. Taking Science to School shows that children bring capabilities and prior knowledge that are “a resource that can and should be accessed and built upon during science instruction.”1 Cognitive researchers have determined that even young children in kindergarten possess strong reasoning skills. In combination with the knowledge already gained from their experiences and interactions with the natural world around them, this reasoning ability can be funneled into constructive science learning when in school. This science learning, then, should develop over the course of years in elementary and secondary school and postsecondary education as a “learning progression.” Such a progression can be based on vertically articulated curricula in which units in higher grades build on units and concepts learned in the lower grades.2 “Meaningful science learning takes time and learners need 1 National Research Council. 2007.Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 2 J. Bruner. 1977. The Process of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, MA.
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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads repeated, varied opportunities to encounter and grapple with ideas,” Ready, Set, Science! asserts.3 What actually constitutes the content of the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind that students must acquire can be and is debated, but the general parameters can be briefly outlined. (As examples of science education by stage, Box F-1 presents four key “strands” in K-8 science education, illustrating one description of what students must acquire at that level, and Box F-2 presents a set of recommendations for undergraduate education in biology.) In brief, the general parameters for STEM knowledge by broad field include: Mathematics: Basic facts and algorithms; algebra, trigonometry, geometry; problem solving ability; and verbal skills.4 Engineering: Mathematical concepts, computational methods, science concepts, engineering design.5 Natural Sciences: Facts, concepts, principles, laws, theories, and models of science. Facts cover specific areas of natural science (e.g., time, light waves, nature of force/velocity/acceleration, and theory of evolution)6 Social and Behavioral Sciences: Sense of history and place; fundamentals of government and politics, economics, society, and human behavior. Habits of mind, again by broad field, include: Mathematics: Thinking conceptually, logical reasoning, experimental thinking, inquisitiveness and the willingness to investigate, and the ability to take risks and accept failure.7 Engineering: Systems thinking, creativity, optimism, collaboration, communication, and attention to ethical consideration.8 Natural Sciences: Understanding of how concepts fit together, ability to generate and interpret evidence to build and refine models and explanations, use of mathematical reasoning, and employment of critical reasoning skills.9 3 National Research Council. 2007. Ready, Set, Science! Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 4 The College Board. College Board Standards for College Success: Mathematics and Statistics. 2006. 5 National Academy of Engineering. 2009. Engineering in K-12 Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 6 The College Board. Science: College Board Standards for College Success 2009. New York, NY: The College Board. 7 College Board Standards for College Success: Mathematics and Statistics. ibid. 8 National Academy of Engineering, Engineering in K-12 Education, ibid. 9 National Research Council. 2007. Ready, Set, Science! Washington, DC: The National Academies Press and Science: College Board Standards, ibid.
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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads BOX F-1 Four Key Strands in K-8 Science Education Ready, Set, Science! describes four key strands to science education at the elementary level: Understanding Scientific Explanations: This strand involves learning the facts, concepts, principles, laws, theories, and models of science. However, it does so in a way that focuses on concepts and the links between them, rather than discrete facts. “To be proficient in science,” the report argues, “students need to know, use, and interpret scientific explanations of the natural world. They must understand interrelations among central scientific concepts and use them to build and critique scientific arguments.” Generating Scientific Evidence: This strand entails generating and evaluating evidence to build and refine models and explanations, design and analyze investigations, and construct and defend arguments. This strand also involves mastering the conceptual, mathematical, physical, and computational tools that are needed to construct and evaluate claims. Reflecting on Science Knowledge: Proficient science learners understand that scientific knowledge builds on itself and can be revised over time. Students recognize that predictions or explanations can be revised on the basis of seeing new evidence, learning new facts, or developing a new model. Participating Productively in Science: Science is a social enterprise. Proficiency entails participation in a scientific community—at this level, the classroom—and mastery of productive ways to present scientific information and arguments and work with their peers in carrying out investigations. In this model, science learning can be based on the way real scientists do science, and content and process interact as students move toward proficiency. SOURCE: National Research Council. 2007. Ready, Set, Science! Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Social Sciences: Theoretical understanding, ability to organize information to test and refine a theory. With some varying degree by field, the additional skills needed for STEM success include: Persistence; Reading, writing, and communication; Basic mathematical skills, including the ability to do word problems; Ability to analyze and interpret statistical data;
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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads BOX F-2 Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action Most faculty agree that to be scientifically literate, students need to understand a few overarching core concepts: evolution; pathways and transformations of energy and matter; information flow, exchange, and storage; structure and function; and systems. As important, undergraduates need to understand the process of science, the interdisciplinary nature of the new biology, and how science is closely integrated within society. Students also should be competent in communication and collaboration, as well as have a certain level of quantitative competency, and a basic ability to understand and interpret data. These concepts and competencies should be woven into the curriculum and reinforced throughout all undergraduate biology coursework. Student-Centered Classrooms and Learning Outcomes: In practice, student-centered classrooms tend to be interactive, inquiry-driven, cooperative, collaborative, and relevant. Classes authentically mirror the scientific process, convey the wonder of the natural world and the passion and curiosity of scientists, and encourage thinking. In addition, classes include both formal and informal assessment and regular feedback to students and faculty to help inform teaching and monitor student learning. And finally, regardless of their majors and eventual careers, students should have opportunities to participate in authentic research experiences and learn how to evaluate complex biological problems from a variety of perspectives, not just recite facts and terminology. Understanding Key Concepts and Competencies: To be current in biology, students should also have experience with modeling, simulation, and computational and systems-level approaches to biological discovery and analysis, as well as with using large databases. Having a basic understanding of core concepts that form the very basis of life on earth, combined with training in newer approaches to biological research, provides students with insights into the process of scientific discovery, as they develop the tools they will need to succeed in tomorrow’s classrooms and board rooms. Strategies for Change: To ensure a smooth transition to student-centered teaching and learning in undergraduate biology courses, all biology faculty and tenure review committees need to insist that the academic reward system value teaching and mentoring, set clear and concrete guidelines for assessment of these activities, and incorporate regular, formative and adaptive assessment of teaching effectiveness. Faculty need to come to consensus on the overarching, central concepts of biology that should be taught within their division or department, and define learning outcomes for those key concepts so that all faculty are working together toward the same learning goals as students move through their department. The ultimate goal for biology departments should be to develop and grow communities of scholars at all levels of the educational process—from undergraduates to faculty to administrators—all committed to creating, using, assessing, and disseminating effective practices in teaching and learning. This kind of department-wide implementation requires cultural changes by all stakeholders and a commitment to elevate the scholarship of teaching and learning within the discipline as a professional activity. SOURCE: National Science Foundation and American Association for the Advancement of Science, Vision and Change in Undergraduate Education: A Call to Action, a summary of recommendations made at a national conference, July 15-17, 2009.
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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads Ability to use scientific method; and Orientation toward learning, good study skills, and ability to take responsibility for one’s own education. Recently, national dialogue regarding “twenty-first century skills” suggests that, in addition to deep knowledge of the substance of a field, graduates at the bachelor’s level and above also need professional skills that may include communication, project management, and ability to work in teams, proficiency in the use of computers, critical thinking, customer awareness, entrepreneurship, ethics, and regulation.10 PRACTICE, LEARNING, AND COMPETENCE Opportunities to put knowledge, skills, and habits of mind into practice serve two important purposes. First, through inquiry-based learning or engineering design activities, students use and create scientific and technical knowledge, come to understand concepts, learn how to generate evidence that can be used to build and refine models and explanations, and develop an appreciation for reflection on experimental outcomes and the way they shape our knowledge. Second, through research or design activities, students also develop a sense of competence in mathematics, science, and technology. Competence is critical to identification with a field of endeavor such as STEM. There is significant attrition from STEM majors at the end of the freshman year in college, and research has shown, for example, that those who switch tended to blame themselves and their abilities when they encountered difficulties, while those who persisted tended instead to blame an external cause, such as the professor, a teaching assistant, or available laboratory resources.11 A sense of competence is also significantly related to persistence, which, especially in mathematics, is critical to success.12 INTEREST, MOTIVATION, BELONGING, AND SELF-IDENTIFICATION Beyond providing threshold education and higher-level preparation for STEM pathways, schools can also identify and encourage students who are motivated in mathematics and science to more fully develop their knowledge base and potential. Programs can include efforts to place students 10 National Research Council. 2008. Science Professionals: Master’s Education for a Competitive World. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 11 Seymour, Elaine, Nancy M. Hewitt. 1997. Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 12 Gladwell’s Outliers: Timing is Almost Everything. Available at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_48/b4110110545672.html.
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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads in science and mathematics magnet schools or to encourage enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or similar advanced courses. Such participation in AP, for example, has correlated with higher rates of college enrollment and success.13 In college, students continue to grow along the STEM pathway. They continue to acquire knowledge both broadly and in their intended STEM field. It is important to continue to nurture interest in science and engineering as students continue on this pathway. Traditionally, many introductory courses in the sciences have functioned to “weed out” students rather than to encourage them. Research has shown, however, that these courses are more likely to weed out those who do not like the competitive culture of science than those who are not good at it. These students who switch majors could contribute in STEM if they were encouraged and nurtured in their interest instead.14 Engagement in rich research experiences allows for the further development of interest in, competence in, and identification with STEM. Research has shown that these experiences with the operations of science very often seize the interest of students who then develop a fascination that translates into a career in STEM. In addition, summer programs in mathematics, science, and engineering that include or target minority high school and undergraduate students provide experiences that stimulate interest in these fields through study, active research or projects, and the development of a cadre of students who support each other in their interests. Similarly, providing opportunities for students to engage in professional development activities, particularly in graduate programs, will provide additional opportunities to both develop the student and socialize them within a discipline and profession. These activities include opportunities for networking, participation in conferences, and presentations of research (on campus or in other professional settings). Even if students are prepared, have adequate information, and are ambitious and talented enough to succeed in STEM fields, success may also hinge on the extent to which students feel socially and intellectually integrated into their academic programs and campus environments. The importance of social and intellectual integration for success is critical to all students, regardless of background. For minority students who may feel, or be made to feel, like outsiders as they see few others “like themselves” among the student and faculty populations, this issue takes on even greater salience. The development of peer-to-peer support, study groups, program activities fostering social integration, and tutoring and mentoring programs may go a long way to overcome this critical hurdle (Astin 1993, Kuh 2003, 13 The 6th Annual AP Report to the Nation. 2010. The College Board, ibid. 14 Seymour and Hewitt, ibid.
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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads Tinto 1993, Pike and Kuh 2005, Swail 2003). Higher education programs should also develop “bridging programs” that assist students as they move across transition points. These programs include a focus on preparation for the next level, guidance from mentors on mastering the transition, the development of connections between programs, and financial support as necessary. The issue of self-efficacy cannot be ignored. Bandura contends that self-efficacy beliefs impact every aspect of students’ lives and can powerfully influence the level of accomplishment that they ultimately experience. Students form their self-efficacy perceptions by interpreting information from four sources: mastery experience, vicarious experience, social persuasions, and physiological reactions. For most, mastery experience is the most influential. Success raises self-efficacy; failure lowers it. AWARENESS AND INFORMATION In primary school—and continuing into middle and high school years—developing an awareness of STEM careers can provide inspiration for students that can be reinforced in mathematics and science courses. School districts can introduce students to STEM careers, starting even in preschool, through awareness activities that would include speakers (role models), activities, field trips, participation in science or engineering programs, and links to summer programs. Employers can form partnerships with K-12 schools to promote STEM education and careers to minority students. They can also provide STEM employees who can serve as role models or mentors and they can provide internships that connect for students the worlds of science and work.15 Higher education institutions could engage in outreach and recruitment activities, in particular considering the development of targeted outreach programs that constitute a “feeder system” for their institutions. The federal government could engage in a marketing campaign designed to “change the face” of STEM careers in the public eye, and especially for families who play an important role in shaping the notions of what their children can become.16 Many students have insufficient information about educational and career opportunities and options, both in general and for STEM, at critical decision points in middle and high school. There may be few opportunities to learn about these options unless institutions—schools, churches, community groups—make an effort to provide role models and information. To complement efforts to raise awareness of STEM careers generally, 15 Confronting the New American Dilemma. 2008. National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. 16 Diversity and Innovation Caucus Stakeholders’ Listening Meeting, February 28, 2008.
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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads counseling in middle and high schools can provide important and timely information in a practical way about what is academically necessary—in high school and in college—to pursue STEM careers. This counseling can also focus on preparing students and families for their initial interactions with higher education institutions, including the application and financial aid processes. Very often, in underresourced schools—ones that are often predominantly minority—students are not encouraged to take the next level of courses needed for college preparation. A recent College Board report argues, “Curriculum rigor trumps just about everything else in predicting college success” and then goes on to note further that “No ethnic group in America comes close to attending high schools in which a college-prep curriculum is universally available. Minority students and those from low-income families have the least access to such a curriculum.”17 In these cases, a program such as the Algebra Project, which encourages student interest in and demand for quality secondary instruction in mathematics and then provides multifaceted intervention, can help over-come this critical obstacle. Students who see achievement in mathematics as both a right and a door to opportunity have an increased probability of success. Advising and mentoring are also important to provide support and information, both in general and at critical decision points. For undergraduates, academic advising about and support for preparation and application for graduate school can make the difference between whether a student continues in the STEM pathway. In graduate school, mentors provide important guidance and support to students, reducing attrition, helping students maximize their educational experience, and providing guidance on launching a career. Higher education institutions can develop faculty who will serve as strong, engaged mentors for STEM students generally and for minority STEM students in particular. INSTITUTIONAL INGREDIENTS Although it is important that each individual student have access to the ingredients for success described above, there is also a set of institutional preconditions that affect all of these requirements for success in STEM education. They include qualified teachers who have strong scientific knowledge and understand how students learn; strong mathematics, science, and engineering curricula that provide knowledge, skills, and habits of mind; an institutional setting designed to provide or support each of the 17 College Board. 2008. Coming to Our Senses: Education and the American Future.
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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads requirements and time to achieve them; counseling and mentoring, much of it stage-specific, that helps the student navigate the path; the financial and social support students need to sustain them; and the availability or accessibility of institutional research infrastructure—that is, laboratories and equipment.