Scientist Spotlight Homework Assignments Shift Students' Stereotypes of Scientists and Enhance Science Identity in a Diverse Introductory Science Class

CBE Life Sci Educ. fall 2016;15(3):ar47. doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-01-0002.

Abstract

Research into science identity, stereotype threat, and possible selves suggests a lack of diverse representations of scientists could impede traditionally underserved students from persisting and succeeding in science. We evaluated a series of metacognitive homework assignments ("Scientist Spotlights") that featured counterstereotypical examples of scientists in an introductory biology class at a diverse community college. Scientist Spotlights additionally served as tools for content coverage, as scientists were selected to match topics covered each week. We analyzed beginning- and end-of-course essays completed by students during each of five courses with Scientist Spotlights and two courses with equivalent homework assignments that lacked connections to the stories of diverse scientists. Students completing Scientist Spotlights shifted toward counterstereotypical descriptions of scientists and conveyed an enhanced ability to personally relate to scientists following the intervention. Longitudinal data suggested these shifts were maintained 6 months after the completion of the course. Analyses further uncovered correlations between these shifts, interest in science, and course grades. 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.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Educational Measurement*
  • Humans
  • Models, Educational
  • Science / education*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Students*
  • Universities*