Initial Publication Date: November 4, 2020

Implementation Group: Scientist Spotlights


Schinske et al. (2016) studied the impacts of a series of self-similar homework assignments, which they refer to as "Scientist Spotlights," on students' conceptions of scientists, interest in science, and course grades. The homework assignments focus on scientists who are from groups that have been historically underrepresented in STEM and whose work is directly related to the course topics. The researchers found that students who completed the scientist spotlights assignments "shifted toward counterstereotypical descriptions of scientists" and that these shifts correlate positively with students' interest in science and course grades. The authors write, "As Scientist Spotlights require very little class time and complement existing curricula, they represent a promising tool for enhancing science identity, shifting stereotypes, and connecting content to issues of equity and diversity in a broad range of STEM classrooms" (Schinske et al., 2016).

Discussion series goals

Participants will develop plans to incorporate scientist spotlights in their own courses. That might include developing scientist spotlights and adding them to this collection:

Structure and format

We ran this discussion group for faculty members who were already familiar with the work of Schinske et al. (2016).

Prior to the first meeting

  1. Participants review Schinske et al., 2016, Scientist Spotlight Homework Assignments Shift Students' Stereotypes of Scientists and Enhance Science Identity in a Diverse Introductory Science Class.
  2. Participants review the Scientist Spotlight project's page on implementation:

1st meeting

  • Introductions
    • Name
    • Department / science discipline
    • What, if anything, have you done prior to this to build your students' science identity?
  • Discussion:
    • What questions do you have based on these resources?
    • What might you apply and/or adapt in your teaching?
    • Do you have another resource to share about this topic?

Prior to the second meeting

Participants review at least three scientist spotlight assignments, from a collection of assignments designed by four geoscience faculty members involved in the SAGE 2YC project, using this assignment review template (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 13kB Nov4 20). We encourage each person to review assignments designed by three different faculty members, as each faculty member usually uses similar assignments within their courses.

Participants write a BRIEF summary of each assignment they review, followed by a reflection on what they might use as is and what they might change about the assignment if they used it in their own course(s). Our goal is for each participant to have an archive of ideas to aid in their own design and development of scientist spotlight assignments.

2nd meeting

During the meeting, participants will share what they discovered while reviewing the shared assignments. To facilitate conversation, participants will note what they would keep and what they would change. Consider including why parts would be kept and used as is and why parts would be changed.

Prior to the third meeting

Participants develop a plan for integrating scientist spotlights into one or more courses, and prepare to share their plans at the synchronous meeting. In addition, participants are encouraged to identify what they see as the biggest challenge they face in implementing their plan.

3rd meeting

Each participant will discuss their scientist spotlight implementation plan. In addition to the plan, participants will include what they see as their biggest challenge for implementation. The group will brainstorm and share suggestions for overcoming challenges.


We scheduled 2 weeks between each of the 3 synchronous discussions in this series.

Additional resources

Scientist spotlights website:

SAGE 2YC's page about developing students' science identity includes links to dozens of web resources that can be used for scientist spotlights, with information about geoscientists and other scientists who self-identify as belonging to a wide range of historically underrepresented populations.


Schinske J., Perkins, H., Snyder, A., and Wyer, M. (2016). Scientist Spotlight Homework Assignments Shift Students' Stereotypes of Scientists and Enhance Science Identity in a Diverse Introductory Science Class. CBE - Life Sciences Education 15 (3).