Develop Students' Science Identity
"If students hold stereotypes that portray scientists as a different 'kind of person' than themselves, those students might conclude they are not 'science people.' This mismatch between a student's personal sense of identity and a science identity can hamper persistence in STEM."
--- Schinske et al., 2016
Poster of strategies to strengthen students' Science Identity.
Provenance: Poster compiled in 2017 by Rachel Beane, Jan Hodder, Heather Macdonald, John McDaris, and Carol Ormand in service to the SAGE 2YC project.
Reuse: This item is offered under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ You may reuse this item for non-commercial purposes as long as you provide attribution and offer any derivative works under a similar license.
Every individual encompasses multiple identities. When students are considering their future careers and educational pathways, one of the factors involved in their decisions is whether or not they can align their perception of a career with one or more of their personal identities. If they cannot see "someone like them" (whatever that means to them) doing a job, it is less likely that they will follow that particular path (Margolis and Fisher, 1997). Indeed, having a strong science identity is one of the only good predictors of moving into a science-related career field after graduation (Stets et al., 2017).
Studies have shown this to be a significant factor in the lack of diversity in STEM fields (Carlone and Johnson, 2007; Hurtado et al., 2009; Zahra et al., 2013). Even though some progress has been made in recent decades, these fields continue to be dominated by white, cis-gendered males which can make it hard for other kinds of students (people of color, women, gender-nonconforming, etc.) to see a place for themselves in STEM. In addition, many students do not come from families or communities where they were exposed to role models from the sciences.
Faculty can help students develop a Science Identity by showcasing examples of scientists who do not fit common stereotypes, helping students see scientists as whole people they can relate to, giving students opportunities to practice doing and talking about science, and highlighting content topics that are relevant to students' lives.
Related: Mitigate Stereotype
Threat and Solo Status
Strategies to Promote Science Identity Development
Jump Down To: Practice Doing Science | Highlight Topics' Relevance to their Lives
Example Scientist Spotlight
Dr. Karletta Chief is an assistant professor and extension specialist in the Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. In her extension specialist work, she brings relevant science to Native American communities in a culturally sensitive manner by providing hydrology expertise, transferring knowledge, assessing information needs, and developing applied science projects. Dr. Chief is Dine, originally from Black Mesa, AZ.
Resources you could use:
Showcase Nonstereotypical Scientists
A powerful way to help students see a place for themselves in STEM is to feature scientists who, collectively, present diverse examples of who scientists are and how science is done (Schinske et al., 2016). Explicitly show diversity in your teaching. Use a diversity of people in the images included in presentations. Showcase the work of non-white geoscientists when appropriate in your courses. Use both historical and modern day examples of diverse individuals. Beyond visual diversity, also include descriptions of scientists as people. Their interests outside of science and pathways they took to where they are (particularly if part of that pathway included time at 2YC) can show students that people in STEM are much more than one-dimensional characters they are often portrayed as.
Schinske et al (2016) discuss the use of Scientist Spotlights as a tool for increasing students' ability to relate to scientists. This activity pairs profiles of diverse examples of scientists with relevant content areas covered in a class distributed throughout the length of the course. For each homework assignment, students read an article about the scientist's research and a resource about the scientist's personal history. Their study concluded that this activity generated shifts in students' stereotypes of scientists and scientist relatability. Students began to be able to see "scientist" as a possible part of their self concept because they were able to understand real scientists as complex people interested in many things.
- Scientist Spotlights is a collection of spotlights and other information by Jeff Schinske, the inventor of scientist sopotlights. You will find profiles, implementation tips and a way to submit your own spotlights.
- Counter-stereotypical Geoscientist Career Profiles (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 1014kB Oct24 18) developed by Jan Hodder, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, University of Oregon, for the SAGE 2YC project
- SAGE Musings: Geoscientist Biographical Sketches: How can we help our students - especially those whose parents aren't geoscientists - imagine themselves as future geoscientists?
- Additional Career Profiles of Geoscientists from the SAGE 2YC collection
- transverse RANGES: transverse RANGES (tR) publishes original, long form interview-format articles about individual geoscientists in all geoscience disciplines. tR is motivated to illuminate themes that connect us, celebrate our diversity, and shape the way we look at ourselves as a collective group of scientists.
- Time Scavengers' "Meet the Scientists": Stories of geoscientists, what type of data they use, why they enjoy science, and their advice for young future scientists.
- This is What a Scientist Looks Like is a project developed by freelance science writer Allie Wilkinson to challenge the stereotypical perception of a scientist.
- Secret Lives of Scientists and Engineers is an Emmy-nominated web series and site from PBS's NOVA. This is where you can learn about cutting-edge science and engineering, the amazing people who do that work, and the things they do when their lab coats come off: win beauty pageants, wrestle professionally, become rock stars and magicians, etc.
- Sci and Tell in the Classroom: AGU is building this collection of stories about scientists and their work, searchable by scientist, domain of interest (e.g. Earth science, astronomy, natural hazards), where they work (e.g. industry, government), and special topics, such as career path, career advice, or social identity.
- STEM Role Models Posters is exactly what it sounds like -- a set of downloadable posters about a diverse group of STEM professionals.
- Story Collider is a podcast about those who do science
- Charlie Barrows of Cascadia College and the University of Washington has created a list of more than 100 diverse scientists with basic biographical information: 100+ diverse scientists. It allows you to sort by many things including field, sex, etc.
- Earth Science Resources: Careers - The Earth Science Resources YouTube channel presents a ton of great information that faculty can share with their students about the geosciences including these profiles of different careers featuring a diverse set of professionals talking about what they do.
- Kappel, E.S. (Ed) Women in Oceanography - A decade later. Oceanography 2014 Vol 27 no.4 supplement
This special issue of Oceanography illuminates both the progress that has been made over the last decade in addressing career barriers and areas where further attention might still be needed.
- Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World includes profiles of women scientists.
- Geoscience Women in STEM from AGI and others: "Our hope is that these trailblazing scientists' stories provide inspiration to geoscience students, professionals, and enthusiasts everywhere. In addition, this website provides curriculum connections linked to profiles of women who are among today's leading geoscientists."
- Trowelblazers: "dedicated to highlighting the contributions of women in the 'digging' sciences: archaeology, geology, and palaeontology, and to outreach activities aimed at encouraging participation, especially from under-represented minorities."
- Women in Ocean Science
- Black Women in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Science
- Daring to Dig