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SEISMIC Guest Speaker Sehoya Cotner Discusses How Instructors Can Envision More Equitable College Classrooms

Nov 18, 2019

Bloomington Assessment and Research (BAR) and the Center for Learning Analytics and Student Success (CLASS) hosted a guest speaker as a part of the SEISMIC project which was funded to advance equity and inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses.

On Thursday, Oct. 31 Dr. Sehoya Cotner, a biology professor in The College of Biological Sciences at The University of Minnesota, addressed her findings for envisioning and creating more equitable college classrooms.

Cotner met with faculty and administrators at IU throughout the day to discuss her research about student success in large introductory STEM course.

Her research looked at data from six R1 institutions across the country and she determined that class sizes emerge as the best indicator of whether or not women feel comfortable and confident enough to participate. In smaller classes, she found that women are more likely to contribute.

Other researchers have also looked at different types of participation like hand raising and discussions among peers, and how they differentiate among male students compared to female students. Cotner suggests moving away from the Student-Deficit Model and proposes that faculty and administrators should follow the “Course-Deficit Model.” According to the Course Deficit Model, instructional choices can remove barriers that hinder student success. These choices include the use of low-stakes, formative assessment techniques, intentional use of role models as examples, and the removal of cues that foster stereotypes about a given discipline

“It’s the responsibility of the instructor and not just the student,” Cotner said when addressing the need to make sure that instructors are also working on the success of their STEM students.

Engaging instructors in discussions on minimizing students’ sense of risk on exams, increasing confidence for female students, and understanding diversity within classrooms provides new opportunities for them to think critically about classroom strategies that can be used to improve student performance.

At large research universities, foundational STEM courses are taught to hundreds or even thousands of students per semester. Cotner is optimistic that asking instructors to think about how time is spent in their classroom will improve is important for both female and male students within STEM courses.

The SEISMIC project explores multi-disciplinary STEM education research and development collaboration to find creative active learning pedagogy that encourages classrooms to be equitable and inclusive leading to success for STEM students. To learn more about SEISMIC, visit the project’s website.

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