This year, there has been much discussion about the value and equity of universities prioritizing student diversity. New research suggests one way he might consider this issue. It’s about finding out how the composition of students in a particular course affects their grades.
a study In college STEM courses, classrooms with higher proportions of students from underrepresented racial minorities and those who are the first in their families to attend higher education are more likely to participate in college STEM courses, according to a paper published in the journal AERA Open. It was found that the students’ performance was good.
That was true for all students, especially minority and first-generation students themselves.
“Higher levels of expression benefit students from all different backgrounds,” study co-author Nicholas Bowman, a professor of educational policy and leadership studies at the University of Iowa, told EdSurge.
This is noteworthy, he added, because discussions about diversity on campus are often reduced to “zero-sum games” where one group of students is portrayed as a loser and another group as a winner.
The study was conducted using administrative data from 20 universities. Researchers were able to examine performance across all courses taken by students from a variety of personal backgrounds.
In STEM courses with high proportions of underrepresented racial minorities, the achievement gap between those students and other students decreased by 27%. STEM courses with a higher proportion of first-generation students saw a 56% reduction in achievement gaps.
This finding is noteworthy in STEM fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Because Black and Hispanic people are underrepresented in these fields, both as college students and as professionals in the workplace.
So why did diversity impact student performance?
Bowman said that simply because students chose easier courses did not necessarily mean they performed better, and that the ease of grading in some classes could also explain the findings. He says he can’t. One hypothesis that remains dominant is that students from underrepresented racial minorities and first-generation students feel more welcome and have greater It’s about feeling a sense of belonging.
Bowman said there are several reasons why all students perform better in more diverse classrooms. lots of research It suggests that there are cognitive and interpersonal benefits for people who interact with others who are different from themselves. This idea is consistent with the instrumental rationale for why higher education institutions prioritize recruiting diverse students to their campuses.
In other words, there are practical benefits associated with classroom heterogeneity in improving student performance.
As researcher Jordan Stark, now an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University, is not explicitly a “moral rationale,” this logic justifies efforts to promote diversity, as she previously explained to EdSurge. It has long been supported by university leaders as a I am interested in values and principles such as “fairness, justice, and fairness.”
Of course, neither rationale seemed convincing to the U.S. Supreme Court this summer. Affirmative action admissions programs at universities have ended.
Still, Bowman hopes the findings will prompt university leaders to step up efforts to recruit and retain underrepresented racial minority and first-generation students. We might also see more intentional attempts to structure courses to engage students from a variety of backgrounds, he added. However, he points out that this is a delicate proposition, as stereotypes about who belongs in STEM courses can unintentionally create bias among others. course.