Assessing the Impact of Curriculum and Department Climate on Undergraduate Diversity, through Student Perceptions of Learning and Inclusion

Wednesday 1:35 PT / 2:35 MT / 3:35 CT / 4:35 ET Online


Alexandra Snell, Texas A & M University
Julie Newman, Texas A & M University
David Sparks, Texas A & M University

This study investigates the impacts of the Texas A&M Geology & Geophysics (G&G) department cultural climate (via perceptions of inclusion) and curriculum (via perceptions of learning) on undergraduate students. The goals of this study are to determine: 1. Relations (if any) between students' perceptions of learning and inclusion; 2. Evolution of students' perceptions of achieving learning outcomes and perception of inclusion within the department over their time within the department; 3. Relations between students perceptions of learning and inclusion with independent measures of student success (retention, graduation rate); 4. differences in student perceptions between underrepresented groups, and the causes of any differences. Students in the G&G program were surveyed at mid-career and at graduation. The survey responses were analyzed cumulatively and via four demographic categories: 1. gender identity, 2. racial identity, 3. transfer student vs. incoming Freshmen, and 4. first-generation college student vs. non-first-generation college student.

Overall, survey responses indicate that students had generally positive feelings about the department. Of the 16 perception of learning and inclusion questions, 8 questions yielded results with differences in certain student demographic group's reported experiences. Most notably, 58% of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC students) responded in agreement or neutral to the statement "It is hard for people like me to feel accepted in the department" compared to 27% of their white peers. We found positive correlations between student perceptions of learning and perceptions of inclusion, but correlations differ when responses are broken down by racial and gender identities. Among students with the lowest perceptions of inclusion, the women with lower perceptions of inclusion seem to be very confident, while men tend to feel academically unsure of themselves. The positive correlation between perceptions of learning and inclusion is weakest among white men, who have a high perception on inclusion regardless of learning.