Cultivating Inclusivity: Transforming Higher Ed Through Accessible Science Education 

Ginelle Testa

Statistics reveal a disheartening trend: many students, particularly from underrepresented backgrounds, are shying away from science fields in higher education. 

Here are some numbers that reflect this trend: 

  • 40% of black students switch out of STEM majors before earning a degree.
  • Only 20% of US high school graduates are prepared for college-level coursework in STEM majors.
  • Although 74% of middle school girls express interest in STEM topics and careers, only 0.4% of high school girls choose to pursue them in college.

What if the issue isn't a lack of interest but a lack of accessibility? In this article, we delve into the crucial steps educators and administrators must take to make science education more inclusive and accessible.

How Can Science Become More Accessible and Inclusive?

The Role of Administrators in Fostering Accessible Science

Physical Accessibility

Labs, classrooms, and other educational facilities must be thoughtfully and universally designed to ensure that all students, regardless of their physical abilities or needs, can participate fully and comfortably.

Hire and Retain Diverse Faculty

Having faculty mirror the diversity of the students can help the students see themselves in STEM. It’s not always so easy, though. According to a report, only 10.1% of STEM faculty is from underrepresented minorities. This underrepresentation is just fuel for the fire to continue to support diverse students in STEM. 

Equip Instructors with Technology

Embracing modern technologies is not just about keeping up with the latest teaching methods; it's about using tech to break down barriers and open up opportunities for diverse learners. 

Labster virtual labs deliver a learning advantage for all students through immersive digital experiences for STEM. Accessibility is considered in every step of the creation process, such as when Labster integrates assistive technologies like screen readers. Virtual labs are also helpful for many students because they can revisit experiments, engage with the material at their own pace, and explore concepts more deeply without the constraints of a traditional lab setting.

Provide Continuous Training and Professional Development

To get everyone on the same page about accessibility and inclusivity, it’s important to offer training. An article from Edutopia says that faculty, admins, and staff “collectively need to take the necessary time to create positive change in school-wide climate, culture, policy, routines, and rituals before it can occur with students.”

Offer Funding and Financial Assistance

Financial barriers are often significant obstacles to inclusivity in higher education, especially within disciplines that require specialized resources, like the sciences. Offering scholarships, research funding, and absorbing lab costs into the budget are ways that can help. 

The Role of Instructors in Fostering Accessible Science

Implement Inclusive Curriculum Design

By actively implementing inclusive curriculum design, educators can ensure that every student, regardless of background or ability, feels engaged, represented, and supported throughout their learning journey. 

The National Science Teaching Association provides a great list of ways educators could include a variety of out-of-the-box teaching methods in their curriculum, such as: 

  • Getting involved in a citizen science project related to their identities
  • Shadowing a mentor in a STEM field and creating a project focusing on their findings and experiences
  • Creating a job application and completing it for their ideal STEM career
Labster virtual labs can be mapped right to your curriculum, ensuring that they’re helping students learn exactly what you set out for them to learn. 

Utilize Effective Technology

Technology has evolved to assist populations such as special education students, ESL learners, and at-risk students. Educators can use various technological tools to reach these populations and engage them. Technology can also personalize learning experiences, combatting cheating in science classrooms during the time of AI, as well as catering to individual needs.

Gather and Implement Feedback

Encourage students to provide feedback on what teaching methods work best for them and continuously adapt teaching strategies accordingly. Gathering methods can be surveys, one-on-one meetings, or feedback sessions. By actively seeking student input and being willing to adapt based on their insights, instructors can create a more responsive, inclusive, and effective educational environment.

Ground Learning in Real-World Examples

Grounding abstract scientific concepts in real-world contexts can make the learning experience more relatable, accessible, and memorable for students. According to a study, drawing a personal connection to the material is predictive of students’ interest in engaging further with science topics. Some examples of real-world applications include:

  • Case studies that reflect current events or historical incidents
  • Guest speakers that mirror the diverse student population
  • Field trips so students can see how learning is applied
  • Virtual labs that allow students to apply career-ready skills and visualize their learning


It's clear that while interest in STEM persists, the journey to a degree or a career is fraught with obstacles for many. By reimagining the educational landscape with an emphasis on accessibility and inclusivity, we can create pathways that not only retain but nurture the passion and potential of every student. 

Through a comprehensive effort from both educator and admin, it’s possible to craft an educational environment where every student, irrespective of their background, feels equipped and inspired to venture into the scientific realm.

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