Student-Authored Scientist Spotlights: Investigating the Impacts of Engaging Undergraduates as Developers of Inclusive Curriculum through a Service-Learning Course

CBE Life Sci Educ. 2021 Dec;20(4):ar55. doi: 10.1187/cbe.21-03-0060.


Scientist Spotlights-curricular materials that employ the personal and professional stories of scientists from diverse backgrounds-have previously been shown to positively influence undergraduate students' relatability to and perceptions of scientists. We hypothesized that engaging students in authoring Scientist Spotlights might produce curricular materials of similar impact, as well as provide a mechanism for student involvement as partners in science education reform. To test this idea and investigate the impact of student-authored Scientist Spotlights, we developed a service-learning course in which teams of biology students partnered with an instructor to develop and implement Scientist Spotlights in a biology course. Results revealed that exposure to three or four student-authored Scientist Spotlights significantly shifted peers' perceptions of scientists in all partner courses. Interestingly, student-authored Scientist Spotlights shifted peers' relatability to scientists similarly among both white students and students of color. Further, student authors themselves showed increases in their relatability to scientists. Finally, a department-wide survey demonstrated significant differences in students' perceptions of scientist representation between courses with and without student-authored Spotlights. Results suggest that engaging students as authors of inclusive curricular materials and partners in reform is a promising approach to promoting inclusion and addressing representation in science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Students*
  • Universities