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Discussion: Do you recognize....

in: BorisGr

Oct 31, 2022 11:27 PM # 
O Joy:
this quote: "the lack of a common definition for STEM has contributed to confusion, and even contradictory findings" ?
Nov 1, 2022 1:42 AM # 
Sounds like something i would have written for a CRS Primer on STEM Education. Where did you come across this?
Nov 1, 2022 10:37 AM # 
O Joy:
The direct quote is in a paper that has been discussed a lot in my department (Hatfield, et al, 2022, PNAS Nexus, 1, 1-10). I was sitting in a meeting yesterday scanning the references and your name jumped out at me. The paper shows that earning D or F or withdrawing from intro Chemistry and Math courses is more likely to drive a minoritized student out of a STEM degree than a white male even when preparation is equivalent.
Nov 4, 2022 8:33 AM # 
I was reading "What the best colege teachers do" lately and I think it was there that I read similar, that unfounded self-doubt is greater in minorities (whether female, black, other) and poor grades affact them more.
An effective approach is, apparently, to invite them to "advanced" study groups which affirm their potential.
Nov 4, 2022 10:04 PM # 
I try to assume that every person is doing what is most reasonable, given their situation & context. So... the question to me isn't why are minority students more likely to leave a STEM degree after a D/F in Chem/Math than a white male? But, rather, what is different about the situation & experience of the minority student or the white male of getting that grade?

In particular, with gender and tech it felt to me like there is a reinforcement bias. If a white male makes a mistake in a presentation, people won't change their assumption that he's a great analyst/SWE but rather assume he had an off day or just made a mistake. But, if a woman/POC made the same mistake, it will more likely be taken as an indication that they're not a very good analyst/SWE (confirming the societal bias). Women in tech are also often told that they're too much of perfectionists, worrying about making mistakes. But, to me, it felt that mistakes actually *were* more costly for those who were in the minority. Humans are more likely to accept as true experiences that match their assumptions and brush off the evidence if it conflicts with one's assumption, rather than change one's assumptions.

So, in this case, it makes me wonder what happens after the D/F? How do the people around the student react? Do they think... oooh... what happened that such a promising student got a failing grade, and reach out to them with concern & support to see what is going on and how they can help. Or, do they think... yeah... we had hope for them and really wanted more students like this, but the D/F just shows that they're just not cut out for this. Better that they find another path, and then coach them through how to transfer.

IE - is the failing grade a signal that a good student is struggling, or a signal that the student isn't very good?

And how do those assumptions by others (and the student themself) affect outcomes & what happens next?

Is the "unfounded self-doubt "just something the person experiences, or does the unfounded self-doubt of the professors/TAs/students/institutions around them contribute to the person's experience as well?
Nov 6, 2022 9:11 AM # 
But, to me, it felt that mistakes actually *were* more costly for those who were in the minority.
I'm pretty sure that that's not just feeling; it is frequently the case, and very relevant in a work setting and in small university classes, and something we need to fight against.

Large (100+) classes are common in early years of university and far too impersonal for assumptions/prejudice/expectations of professors etc to be directly relevant. Many fail and the reaching out consists of letting them know when the resit is. Now, even this may be interpreted differently depending on the student's background (oh, this is normal versus oh, the people and the system don't care and view me as unworthy).

Your point may be more relevant when it comes to tutorials/support classes.

Did you have Garrity as a lecturer, Zan? I just watched , very good. I also have his "All the maths you missed" book.

The idea that one should be very cognisant of one's students' levels of mathematical maturity (and that they can be raised) seems important.

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