Mirroring minoritized students' cultures in the classroom and field can improve Geoscience diversity

Wednesday 1:30 PT / 2:30 MT / 3:30 CT / 4:30 ET Online
Oral Session Part of Oral Session III


Alissa Kotowski, McGill University
Vashan Wright, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The incorporation of inquiry-based learning (IBL) in out-of-school time (OOST) Geoscience courses has not led to significant increases in the number of minoritized students that pursue Geoscience. Previous studies hypothesize that the number of minoritized students interested in pursuing Geoscience will increase if courses more closely resemble the students' cultures -- i.e., are taught using Collectivist ideals, which typically prioritize the needs of the group over the individual. We test this hypothesis by using pre-course, post-course, and activity-specific surveys to assess minoritized student engagement, perception, and interest in pursuing Geoscience during two OOST courses within the GeoFORCE Texas Program. These courses incorporate a curriculum of IBL activities that either emphasize individualism (individual-learning) or collectivism (group-learning).

Activity-specific survey results show that minoritized students within the studied cohort (n = 68) prefer learning through group activities. Students rated group activities as more difficult and fun; they also felt they learned more during group-learning activities. The students' engagement and interest in the topics varied more widely during individual-learning activities. We interpret these results to mean that (1) teachers should preferably employ group-learning activities if they desire to increase the difficulty of a task without sacrificing student interest and engagement, and (2) individual-learning activities are less reliable ways of engaging minoritized students. Pre- and post-course surveys show that the number of students interested in pursuing STEM and Geoscience increased from 43 to 54 and 11 to 16, respectively. The students' perceptions of a geoscientist broadened to include a scientist who studies not only the earth but also its history and governing processes.

The results from all survey types imply that incorporating group-learning activities in these courses -- thus mirroring students' cultural ideals -- is the most likely cause for the increase in the number of minoritized students interested in pursuing STEM and Geoscience.

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