Literature Resources for Broadening Access to Science & Math

Stereotype Threat

Stereotype Threat: "The threat of being viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype, or the fear of doing something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype." Research shows that when students felt they were being judged by stereotypes, they performed less well; this was found to be more true of higher-achieving students (from 1999 article below by Claude Steele).

G.L. Cohen, J. Garcia, N. Apfel and A. Master (2006). "Reducing the Racial Achievement Gap: A Social-Psychological Intervention" (Acrobat (PDF) 230kB Sep7 06), Science 313, p. 1307-1310. Listen to Sept. 1, 2006 Science Podcast

Michael Johns, Micheal, Schmader, Toni and Martens, Andy (2005). "Knowing is Half the Battle. Teaching Stereotype Threat as a Means of Improving Women's Math Performance", Psychological Science 16, p. 175-179.

Women tend to perform worse on math problems when the problems are described as a "math test". According to research on stereotype threat, this underperformance phenomenon is due to fright of confirming a negative stereotype about a group. To combat and solve this problem, a study was created where math tests were given to undergraduate men and women under different levels of awareness about stereotype threat. The study concludes that teaching students about stereotype threat offers a possible solution to reduce its negative effects. (Sara Lopez)

Cohen, Geoffrey L. and Steele, Claude M. (2002). "A Barrier of Mistrust: How Negative Stereotypes Affect Cross-Race Mentoring". In Improving Academic Achievement, Chapter 15, Elsevier Science (USA).

Steele, Claude M. (1999). Thin Ice. "Stereotype Threat" and Black College Students, Atlantic Monthly 284 (2).

Steele, Claude (1997). "A Threat in the Air: How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity and Performance" American Psychologist 52, 613-629.

This article describes the impact of a stereotypic threat on a student's performance in the classroom. Gathering statistics from the literature on various testing data, Steele demonstrates that because of stigma associated with women and blacks in the classroom, a large performance disparity forms compared to their respective counterparts in higher education. It is shown that there are stereotype threats, or social-psychological threats that take effect when a person is in a situation where a negative stereotype can be applied to them. Because of these stereotype threats, minorities such as a blacks and women are less likely to continue or develop an interest in math and the physical sciences. (Lisa Short)

Effective Work in Diverse Groups & Teams

Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, Penn State University, Puzzled About Teams, by Gill, Heermans, and Herath.

Larry K. Michaelsen, Arletta Bauman Knight, and L. Dee Fink, editors (2004). "Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups in College Teaching". Stylus Publishing version.

Problem Solving

Asera, Rose, "Pipeline or Pipedream: Another Way to Think about Basic Skills", Carnegie Conversations, posted Aug. 14, 2006.

Science and math faculty interested in problem solving participated in a weekly lunch series of discussions in summer 2005. This series included visits and discussions with Erica Flapan (Math, Pomona College, more on her science problem solving course here) and Ken Heller (Physics, University of Minnesota, in the Physics Education Group). Discussion centered on topics like the value of various problem types (well or ill-structured, data rich, etc.), problem design, how to effectively facilitate problem-solving in teams and groups, how to scaffold problem-solving processes into teaching and problem design, and more.

On teaching problem solving:

What Works for Under-Represented Students at Other Institutions

Biology Scholars, UC Berkeley
Cornell University Working Group (2006). Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in College Completion and Achievement: A Teagle Working Group on What Works and Why.

Gandara, Patricia, and Maxwell-Jolly, Julie "Priming the Pump: Strategies for Increasing the Achievement of Underrepresented Minority Undergraduates". The College Board (December 1999). The most recent review article on this topic.

Summers, Michael F. & Hrabowski III, Freeman A. "Preparing Minority Scientists and Engineers" Science 311 (March 31, 2006). On the nationally recognized Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

This article talks about the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, founded in 1989, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The program is devoted to eradicating the belief that underrepresented students, particularly blacks, are not interested on pursuing careers in the sciences. Up to 2006, the program has supported 768 students, 260 of which are currently undergraduates. According to the data presented, students who entered the program are twice as likely to earn a science or engineering bachelor's degree, and 5.3 times more likely to enroll in post-college graduate study. The program model is comprised of four objectives: academic and social integration, knowledge and skill development, support and motivation, and monitoring and advising. Key program elements include: 1) recruiting a substantial pool of high-achieving minority students with interest in science and engineering, 2) merit based scholarships, 3) an orientation program for incoming freshman, 4) recruiting research-active faculty to work with the students, and 5) involving students in research as early as possible. The program encourages students to excel, earn top grades, and prepare for graduate school. They note that encouraging high academic performance in the first two years is critical. (Sara Lopez)

Matsui, John, Liu, Roger, and Kane, Caroline M. Evaluating a Science Diversity Program at UC Berkeley: More Questions Than Answers Cell Biology Education 2 pp. 117-121 (2003). On the nationally recognized Biology Scholars Program.

This article discusses the Biology Scholars Program (BSP) that was started to give students a support system while enrolled in a biology program - specifically in molecular and cell biology. In addition to providing a curricular support system, BSP has the intention of increasing the number of students who obtain undergraduate degrees in the biological sciences. The support includes not only help inside the classroom, but outside as well, helping participants with choosing a major, careers, and the typical "high-school-to-college" adjustments that a lot of students initially face. This article shows that students in this program benefit greatly from the support and are doing better compared to non-participants in terms of GPA and graduating with a degree in Biology. However, the research has raised questions about the reasons for program success: What role has BSP had in student success? What can other institutions do to help their undergraduates replicate this success?

Fullilove, Robert E., and Philip Uri Treisman (1990). "Mathematics Achievement Among African American Undergraduates at the University of California, Berkeley: An Evaluation of the Mathematics Workshop Program". Journal of Negro Education 59, 463-478.

Women in Science

Barres, Ben A. "Does Gender matter?" Nature 442, 133-136 (13 July 2006). Published online 12 July 2006. (Carleton online access through the Bridge at Gould Library).

The suggestion that women are not advancing in science because of innate inability is being taken seriously by some high-profile academics. Ben A. Barres explains what is wrong with the hypothesis.

Lederman, Doug (2006). The Real Barriers for Women in Science,, Sept. 19, 2006. (original report immediately below)

National Academy of Science, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine (2006). Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering (2006). Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering & the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

Degree Progress for Underrepresented Groups in STEM Fields

"Good News! A Record Number of Doctoral Degrees Awarded to African Americans" The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (2005).

This article celebrates the steadily increasing statistics in African Americans earning Ph.D.s. Not to cloud this accomplishment, the article also discusses how few of the degrees obtained are in the sciences. There are multiple subdisciplines in science that had no degrees obtained at all (such as astrophysics, engineering physics, etc.). There is still a huge difference between the numbers of whites that earn a Ph.D. in the natural sciences compared to blacks. The article also says that a large number of the doctoral degrees received by African Americans were in the field of education. (Lisa Short)

"Black Student Graduate Rates Remain Low, But Modest Progress Begins to Show" (Acrobat (PDF) 2.9MB Aug3 06), Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Winter 2005/2006.

The National Agenda

Alberts, Bruce, "A Wakeup Call for Science Faculty" Cell 123, December 2 (2005). Bruce Alberts, a biochemist, is the past President of the National Academy of Science; known as the"education president".

In this article, Bruce Alberts urges science faculty to change the way of teaching science to undergraduates in colleges and universities. From his personal experience when he was a college student at Harvard, science education focused on teaching students what was already discovered. Not until he spent time in a real research laboratory was he able to understand the purpose and nature of science. His theory is that by teaching science as an inquiry process, rather than as a sequence of facts and data memorization, students will feel more connected to the subject. He argues that these days, when in some high schools theories like "evolution" and "intelligent design" are banned from the classroom, it is important to emphasize the importance of teaching science and make a big effort to increase the appeal of science to students and the public. (Sara Lopez)


Seymour, E., & Hewitt, N.M. (1997). Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Widely cited, in-depth study examining why students leave science majors.. The chapter on minority students briefly reviews existing knowledge, and portrays a number of factors which differentiate SEM major "switchers" from "non-switchers".

Tinto, V. (1987, 1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Widely cited, broad-based book which examines factors that influence student attrition from college--includes discussion of factors related to attrition among minority students.