Ashley Buitenwerf: [00:00:00] Hi everyone, and welcome to our second webinar of 2023, Meeting Students Where They Are: How to Simplify STEM Access for Everyone. My name is Ashley Buitenwerf. I'm an education strategist here at Labster. It's my job to represent you in the R&D side of the company to be an educator's perspective in teaching and learning quality in how we build our simulations and in the overall Labster experience.
Ashley Buitenwerf: [00:00:27] We educators know, and studies have shown, that passing introductory STEM courses and getting a STEM degree varies dramatically based on gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Even when our high school preparation has been equal, this webinar takes a critical look at STEM equitability and offers practical strategies for mitigating its effects that can be put in place in this coming school year. This presentation will include a question and answer session with Dr. Nate Brown, professor of mathematics at Penn State University and the Eisenhower Teaching Award winner. Dr. Brown will answer your questions on how to teach introductory STEM courses that enable success and minoritized students.
Ashley Buitenwerf: [00:01:14] We'll have a Labster faculty roundtable where educators will discuss their experiences in STEM retention, especially in non-STEM majors. And finally, we'll have a highly anticipated product update session where you will get an exclusive early introduction to a platform-wide Labster update that will enhance the learner experience.
Ashley Buitenwerf: [00:01:36] Once again, we are so excited to have you join us for Meeting Students Where They Are, How to Simplify STEM Access for Everyone. We hope you enjoy the presentation.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:00:00] Hello, everyone. Thank you all for joining us today to discuss the very important topic around how institutions can teach introductory STEM courses where minority students are successful without lowering academic standards. I'm joined today by changemaker and self-described "good troublemaker" in this area, Dr. Nate Brown. Dr. Brown's work and research focuses on equity and inclusion in STEM education. He is a theoretical mathematician and professor of mathematics at Penn State University. His research has received continuous NSF support since 1999, and his teaching awards include Penn State's Eisenhower Award in 2022. While his equity work has earned a Robinson Equal Opportunity Award in 2017. So thank you so much for joining us today, Dr. Brown.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:00:54] Thank you. It's a real pleasure to be here.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:00:57] All right. So let's get into our Q&A today. We'll focus on the research he's done in this very important field. Well, then delve into how faculty and institutions can help inspire minority students to pursue STEM fields. And finally discuss why it's important to care about supporting and promoting equity within STEM. But first, I'd love to hear more about your initial aha moment and how you got started on your path to promoting equity ability within STEM.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:01:30] Sure. It wasn't quite an aha moment so much as it was more like a slow burn over several years. But the driving force was research. There's now a large body of work on inequities in STEM education. For example, in randomized controlled trials. The actual gold standard in science, right? Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated implicit bias by STEM faculty, by people just like me. Implicit bias that favors men over women, white people, over Hispanics and African-Americans. So, yeah, at this point, the evidence is simply overwhelming.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:02:07] Okay, great. And so your research and especially the research study, do introductory STEM courses disproportionately drive minoritized students out of STEM pathways. What can we learn from that? Those findings?
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:02:24] For me, the most striking finding is the disparity between graduation rates for equally talented students.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:02:32] So imagine two brand new first year STEM students came to your institution. They had identical ACT scores, identical high school GPA, and both were successful in their first semester weed out classes. These are better in an equitable education system. I would expect those two students to have similar probabilities of getting a STEM degree, you know, four years later.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:02:55] Right.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:02:56] But they don't. If one's a white male, the probability is 48%. If the other is a black female, the probability is only 28%. And remember, we can't blame high school preparation because these two students have identical ACT scores and high school GPA. And we can't blame performance and weed out courses in their first semester because we controlled for that too. So in my opinion, this horrific disparity is an example of structural racism and sexism in higher STEM education.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:03:30] And as I said, it just adds to the previous body of work demonstrating structural inequities in college.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:03:37] Yeah, and you mentioned weed-out classes a couple times. Can you define those? And is it known to the students? Is it known to the faculty? Are they obvious or is it more of an internal unspoken understanding?
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:03:55] Right. Yeah. There's no definition per. One that I'm aware of. But calculus, intro, chemistry, and physics, these are common examples, and I think the thread that runs through them is these weed-out classes are generally required for a lot of STEM majors. I mean, think of calculus. It's required by almost all STEM majors, and these classes tend to have very high DFW rates. So that is a D students who get a D, an F, or Withdraw. Right. These courses have high DFW rates in some cases like 40% or more. So that's a thread that runs through these things. But another thing that happens, at least in my experience, is that some instructors of these courses actually see themselves as gatekeepers, sort of weeding out the students they deem ill-suited for STEM careers. I mean, it's absolutely brutal, and it may vary a little by institution, but if you want to know what the weed-out courses are at your institution, maybe just ask your students, because I'm sure they know.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:04:58] And I think that's a good segue way into my next question. You've identified faculty, including yourself, as barriers to improving equity in STEM fields. And so since this realization, you've taken a number of initiatives that have had a significant impact towards promoting equity. Can you speak to some of these actions or strategies you feel can be replicable among other STEM educators?
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:05:24] Sure. I think perhaps the most important thing that I've done is learned about the vast body of research demonstrating inequity in STEM education and sharing it with other STEM faculty through talks of conferences by programs like this. I mean, so thank you for the opportunity to be here.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:05:46] But another important thing I hope has been eating a lot of humble pie and sharing my mistakes so other STEM faculty can see that we're all doing our best, learning to grow and hopefully becoming better, more equitable instructors. I mean, I was never taught how to teach in graduate school, so of course I came into it knowing that a lot, a lot of experience, but not a lot of education with regard to how to teach. And, you know, in graduate school I was taught how to do research. But when it comes to teaching, we all just sort of figured it out. Or more accurately, what we really do is we sort of mimic the teaching we experienced as students. And research has clearly shown that a lot of the teaching philosophies and practices we experience as students and then we replicate on our own classes, the stuff is inequitable.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:06:41] For instance, there's a widespread belief that STEM classes are gender or race-neutral, right? That it's all about the science and issues of race or gender don't impact our classes. Well, if that were the case, comparable white male students and black female students would have comparable chances of earning a STEM degree, but they don't. So I would hope that all STEM instructors who care about, you know, equity in education would commit to learning some of this research.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:07:12] Grab some friends, start a book club, start a journal club, meet monthly, maybe take turns presenting a research paper, a chapter from a book, if there's good ones out there. I mean, I highly recommend the book Black, Brown and Bruised by Dr. Ebony McGee details a lot of the work showing structural inequities in higher STEM education. There's another wonderful book talking about Leaving Revisited that has a ton of qualitative work, talking to students about why they leave STEM fields. So there's great resources out there for this. I say book clubs, journal clubs, whatever, and this is something that everyone can do. Starting tomorrow, if you like.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:07:55] But I'd like to say a little bit more about the barriers to equity in higher STEM education. You know, in my view, the greatest barrier to equity is the status quo and faculty who cling to it. Higher STEM education is inequitable, structurally racist and sexist. Full stop. The research is just overwhelming. So refusing to change changed the way we teach our curriculum, the way we assess teaching quality, right? Refusing to change these things is the greatest barrier to equity in my view. And faculty are the only ones who can change higher STEM education. So being humble, open-minded, having the integrity to own the fact that we are imperfect, we can all do better. This is crucial to change our education system.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:08:46] Right? And you mentioned that the traditional teaching methods, such as lectures, tend to drive students out of STEM pathways. And this speaks to your point just a few minutes ago about teaching how you are taught. What recommendations do you have to get out of that mold and what methods have you seen successful at engaging students and promoting a sense of belonging within STEM education?
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:09:12] Yeah. Well, before we get into suggestions, let me just say that the research is crystal clear on this point, too. There were two met-analyses published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the first from 2014 and the second from 2020. If I remember correctly, these meta-analyses clearly showed that traditional lecture is inferior and inequitable when compared to modern teaching methods that engage students, get them to work together, build community.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:09:45] Now, the umbrella term for these modern methods is active learning, but it means many different things in many different contexts and structures. Instructors rather have a lot of flexibility actually in how to implement them in their particular class. So for instance, I spent the first half of my career just doing traditional lecture, you know, "sage on the stage" monologues. Now my students do a lot of group work in class and small groups, which I assign usually groups of 3 to 4 students. In fact, they spend over 50% of class time in small groups working through problems that are carefully curated to scaffold students up through higher and higher, more complex ideas and problems.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:10:27] But the fact is, that's harder to do in some classes, like in a large lecture hall that probably isn't going to work, but there's other things you can do. There's something called the Think pair share technique that might make more sense in a large lecture hall. And the idea here is that you pose a question to all of your students. You give them one minute to think about it. Then you ask them to pair up and then you ask them to share their thoughts. Think pair share if you want to learn more and many more techniques. There are some excellent resources out there. I highly recommend the book Inclusive Teaching by Doctors Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy to make for a terrific book club, by the way. You have a couple of friends and colleagues that wanted to start making changes in their classes, but there's another great resource I like to advertise.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:11:22] It's called the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project, and this can be found at w w w the inclusive STEM teaching dot org. I have nothing to do with that, by the way, so I feel no conflict of interest in mentioning this. It really is just terrific, and it's a great way for a group of friends or colleagues to learn how to be better, more equitable teachers. And in case you're wondering why I keep saying doing this in groups as opposed to, you know, just learning the stuff on your own. It's because research shows that long-term sustained change is more likely to occur when you work together. I mean, we have busy, complicated lives and a long journey toward equity and change is easier with the group that keeps us motivated and accountable and helps brainstorm how to implement these changes in our unique context. I mean, you could try to do it alone and you might be successful, but if you really want to have long-term sustained change, it really is better to do this with a group of like-minded colleagues.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:12:26] Yeah, and I love that our previous webinar was around digital technology and the impact on mental health of students in Generation Z. And so I love the idea of methods that you can put them with classmates and get them to interact face to face in person as well, because it will also have a ripple effect on the mental health and getting them out of their digital lives that can see them most of their day to day as well. And so now that kind of segues into our next section of it inspiring students. So you've spoken a lot on the gender and racial bias currently impacting underrepresented students grades in STEM courses, much to do with some faculty holding a fixed mindset over the growth mindset. So do you believe this has contributed to students themselves having a fixed mindset? And if so, what can you do to help transition these students into more of a growth mindset?
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:13:31] Yeah, fixed versus growth mindset is a big topic and there's plenty of nuance. So this is going to be a slightly long-winded answer, but I also want to focus just on mathematics for a second because I say it is nuanced and it depends on which context you're talking about fixed and growth mindsets. So you're going to focus on mathematics. And that's partly because I'm a mathematician. But as I say, the fact is that a growth or fixed mindset might look a little different in biology than it does in mathematics. So context matters here anyway in math. A fixed mindset. This is often reflected in the idea of a so-called math person. That is, lots of people feel you're either born a math person or you're not. Sort of the ability to be successful in math is fixed, written in your DNA, if you will. Well, this is a myth. Math is a skill. It's a skill that you learn over many years through tons of practice and mistakes and training. But in our society, it's very common to believe that you're either do or don't have this, you know, magical math people gene or whatever. And if I'm being honest, I myself believed the math person myth for most of my adult life. So yeah, a lot of STEM faculty might hold a fixed mindset, such as the math person math. But all of us, including our students, likely learned this during their formative years in childhood from their parents at teachers or their friends in elementary school.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:15:09] So I don't think that STEM faculty can be blamed for students holding a fixed mindset, because I believe that started much earlier in our students' academic career. But I do believe faculty have an obligation to combat this destructive myth. So, for example, faculty can repeat over and over messages of a growth mindset. Literally, walk in and tell your class. I struggled with math, too. We all struggle with math at some point. And that's okay. That's just part of the learning process. Now, when you're sending these messages, it is important that you be genuine. I mean, students can smell B.S. a mile away. And it's important that you repeat these growth mindset messages over and over. Right. It's not a one-and-done message and people suddenly change.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:15:55] But if you're genuine and if you repeat these messages over and over, I do believe instructors can have a very big impact on how students feel through, you know, these consistent messages. And it's something that I try to do in every single class I teach. If you'll allow me, though, I want to say a little bit more about the importance of mindset, specifically because there was really a stunning study that was published in 2020. And this study has to do with the impact of an instructor's growth versus fixed mindset and how that's reflected in their students.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:16:37] So as I say, 2020, there's this amazing study. And what they did, they looked at instructors that have either a fixed mindset, STEM instructors, STEM instructors who have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset, and then they compared the grades. So they looked at the grades of the students in classes taught by a fixed mindset instructor. They look at the grades of the students and classes taught by a growth mindset Instructor, Instructor. They want to see if there's any differences. Well, the answer is yes. And it's another example of structural racism and higher STEM education, because a typical black or Hispanic student gets a B minus when their instructor has a fixed mindset and they get a B when their instructor has a growth mindset. And this was a large study. This looked at 150 instructors with 15,000 students. So just think about that for a second. Right. An instructor's mindset is reflected in their students grades with minoritized students paying the price when their instructor has a fixed mindset. And by the way, these fixed mindsets, they're pretty common in mathematics. As I say, I believed in the math person myth for most of my life, so I hope all STEM instructors will be humble enough to interrogate their own beliefs and if necessary, let go of antiquated myths because our beliefs might not be innocuous.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:18:03] And how do you suggest? Why do you suggest putting themselves to a test and blindly grading papers and tests to see if they do in fact have this fixed mindset over a growth mindset?
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:18:21] There are online measures if you just Google growth mindset. Okay? There are online measures that you can take there. Some of them are very short, like four questions, and this will help you identify where you fall on the growth versus fixed mindset spectrum. And I want to emphasize, it is a spectrum. It's not like you're one or the other and it's not even that you're fixed. So one day I might have sort of a fixed mindset and the next day I might wake up in a different mood and have a growth like it's not, it's not part of us. We can change. We can change how we feel about these things. So the first thing is to interrogate our own beliefs. And then you'd be amazed, actually, how differently you interact with your students when you genuinely believe that all students have the growth potential to be successful in your class. It will change how you interact with them, how you speak to them. It will change a lot of things about the way you teach.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:19:20] Well, thank you for sharing those resources. How do you inspire students to pursue a STEM major when it wasn't initially on their radar, especially given the stereotypical images of STEM professionals such as Albert Einstein if they don't look and act a certain way.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:19:38] Well, I have always loved this part of teaching because I'm a huge nerd. I always have been. And science is incredibly exciting for me. I mean, whether it's black holes or neuroscience or I get all gives me chills. I just love it all. So I share this with my students openly, enthusiastically, unapologetically. I spend a couple of minutes before class starts. I talk about exciting advances, cool topics, whatever, but I also ask my students what they think or what excites them. And this can be a great way to not just learn about, but connect with your students. So basically, I'm a huge science nerd. I model that for my students and I encourage them to embrace their nerdiness. I mean, it's a great time to be in STEM. Our skills and talents are in high demand and STEM needs all nerds in tech. I mean, we can't afford to miss any talent. There are big problems to be solved. So please, let's put ancient, sexist, racist stereotypes like white men in lab coats in the dustbin of history. Right. STEM is for everyone, and it needs everyone. So embrace your inner nerd.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:20:53] I love that. Great. And this kind of goes into our next topic of the future of why STEM needs everyone. While the data shows that more women are pursuing STEM studies, the workforce or the STEM workforce overall is still majority male. Will the advancements made in regards to promoting equity within STEM fields impact the overall STEM workforce, helping to boost some of these trends?
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:21:23] Yes, things are getting better, though the progress is slow. So the National Science Foundation had just released a report like literally this year called Diversity in STEM. And this report shows increases in representation of women over the last decade. It shows increases in the representation amongst minorities, racial or ethnic groups. So that's great. Happy to see that progress. But as I said, you know, in the various context, we still have a long way to go before equity is achieved in STEM education.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:21:56] Absolutely. One of the biggest pieces of feedback we've gathered over the years is that employers in higher ed institutions, I feel like they get underprepared students and job candidates, especially within the STEM fields. Would the cultivation of a more diverse student population, have a ripple effect on the impact and level of preparedness for higher ed STEM courses as well as professional roles?
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:22:23] Absolutely. There's no doubt about this in my mind. I mean, we are driving tons of talent out of STEM fields, particularly talented women and students of color. If you've got talent, you've got options. And if one of your options is welcoming and warm and the other is not like, which one are you going to choose? Right. So yeah, if you want to have a more talented and well-prepared STEM workforce, let's create an ecosystem that doesn't drive talent away. I mean, it seems pretty straightforward to me.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:22:58] Yeah, I agree. Great. Well, Dr. Brown, thank you very much. My takeaway from this discussion or takeaways is we have a long way to go before STEM pathways are truly accessible to everyone, regardless of race or gender. That said, taking steps, however small, to reconcile this imbalance will pay out in spades in terms of fill in the gaps within the STEM workforce and in turn contributing to significant advancements in society and the world. Really. So thank you for your time in discussing this incredibly important topic and promoting equity and diversity within STEM and for your own work in helping to drive this movement forward.
Dr. Nate Brown: [00:23:42] So it's been a pleasure. Thank you very much.
Hilary Pennington/Labster: [00:23:44] Thank you.
Natalia Haimowitz/Labster: [00:00:00] Welcome to the faculty discussion portion of the Labster webinar Meeting students where they are How to simplify STEM access for everyone. As we examine student enrollment and retention rates in higher education, we need to consider how equitable STEM education really is, especially to minority students and non-majors. We are joined by two Labster users and community campus members Dr. Adam Hrincevich, instructor at Logan University and Gini Lea Ennis, a high school science teacher and department chair for Savannah-Chatham County Public School System. Instructors will be sharing their experiences on this subject today. So thank you both for joining us today.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich:
Natalia Haimowitz/Labster: [00:00:53] Let's begin. In a 2020, said our keynote speaker, Dr. Nate Brown, spoke about how the binary myth, meaning you're either good or you're not good. In fact, minority students and being in a low impact environment, that is to say you're either right or you are wrong, impacts women more than men in your professional careers. How have you been differential impact affect this group of students in STEM education? Adam, please start us off.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:01:29] Yeah, I think I'm a little bit unusual in this aspect in that I teach at multiple universities. My full-time job is at Louisiana State University and I teach about five or six different courses there. There are a combination of live 100% in-class lectures, and then we also have online courses through three different departments on campus. Where I use Labster is primarily through my part-time job at Logan University.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:01:59] And Labster was really kind of a saving grace for us because we were making the transition of trying to create online labs and really not having the materials that were great at achieving the goals we were trying to achieve. And we had been using a lot of material from other people, or I spent an enormous amount of time creating my own labs. When the materials that we started to use at the beginning of the course began to either not be updated or were phased out or Java, I forget what what platform was no longer supported. We lost a lot of our labs, so we were scrambling to try and figure out what could we use to replace those labs. And that's when we jumped into Labster. So for Logan, I've been using Labster for about two years now, about two years, and it's been a really excellent resource for for us, especially because I am teaching remotely and I don't have the ability to see my students in class.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:03:07] In Louisiana State University, we have many different courses for introductory biology. We have our traditional majors course and we have our non-majors course. I think we see a lot more of the discrepancies, especially in underrepresented groups, women, students of color that come in at a disadvantage because they just don't have the background for entering into a university level. So part of my job is to, you know, it's difficult because I have class sizes of 250 and I typically teach three sections. So I have upwards of over a thousand students a semester. I have to identify those students early and it's difficult.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:03:55] But the way that I've found it works the best for me is based on my teaching style. I try and make my classroom something that's unique for every student because there's no one teaching method that's going to cover everybody. So my classroom is very interactive. It's very open. And, you know, when I introduce myself, I'm Adam. You know, I do have a Ph.D., but I try and bring myself down to the level of a student in terms of their comfort level, even though I'm, you know, twice or almost three times their age. But if they feel comfortable asking questions, it makes the whole learning process much, much easier. But we do see underrepresentation in our field, especially for minority students and women, because they just think science is too hard. And part of my job is to let them know science isn't hard. It's fun, it's amazing. And it's something that if you discover something you really like, you can make a wonderful career out of it.
Natalia Haimowitz/Labster: [00:04:59] Absolutely. It sounds like definitely the kind of mediation that you, as the professor, provide so necessary, so vital, right, for these students. Gini, I wonder, in the high school scenario, how do you navigate this?
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:05:16] I'll be honest, differential impact really played a big role in my career, in my life. I've been a teacher for 23 years in secondary science. But when I started in my small rural town, growing up, a very small town, we didn't have a lot of female science teachers. And so I'm that female science teacher now that my journey has led to this great destination where I can try to have this hopefully great relationship with the kids because it's about relationships.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:05:52] But in my experience, I only had 4H when I was in school to learn about science. So my destination to marine biology and ultimately education suffered because of differential impacts. So this binary myth really hit me close to home because I did not have females to look up to. And when I went to college, all of my professors were male and marine biology and chemistry. Sometimes because I had weaknesses in math, I experienced a lot of what the TED Talk talked about because I was not a really great math student, did not mean that I wasn't a fabulous chemistry student. Even though math is a skill that's needed to build all the other careers it's so interdisciplinary, the STEM fields, isn't it?
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:06:47] I think it's wonderful that someone like me can come from a small town setting work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and ultimately end up in secondary education. I think that the underrepresented groups need to see what they want to be. And so seeing what I wanted to be was what I saw in Dr. Sylvia Earle when she came to do a lecture here in Savannah, Georgia. And that one encounter was enough to carry me through the rest of that. So I really want the kids to see honestly, I have always tried my best as even when I was a brick-and-mortar teacher, to make sure the children had experiences and could see that the science is what we're living in. STEM as what is life. And one of the reasons why it's so relatable in storytelling when you're teaching science is that for most of us, we have health conditions. We we are living through a pandemic. What better science lab are we living through right now?
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:07:50] Unfortunately, I've been in a bubble for three years. I have a primary immune deficiency. I can't leave my house because it's not for medical appointments. So I've been teaching online. It was a bit of a pivot that turned into permanent position. But I just think we need to show the kids what we can do when we have STEM training. And it has nothing to do with it, with male, with female, with your ethnicity. I think that our differences now make us stronger. And what I didn't see growing up, I make sure that my students have that access and it really makes a big difference.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:08:36] I think Gini makes a really good point about having representation for instructors or high school people early on. I think one of the strong points that we have in our department is we have a real variety in terms of our instructors. We have not just male, because I remember going to college, I maybe had one or two female teachers, period, in my entire career. In our department we have, you know, male, female, people of color, different, you know, sexual orientations. That is really, it's a broad spectrum to represent that anyone out there can be successful in science. And if people see people like themselves, even if they don't quite realize who they are quite yet, I think that just gives them that little impetus to, you know, push forward and really find something that they enjoy and hone in on that and be successful.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:09:38] Because I always tell my students, listen, you know, I tell them so many stories, but I said, you know, to be successful in life is not just about the bottom line of making money. I had so many of my fellow students, my fraternity brothers, all went into finance, went into, you know, CPAs. And, you know, I would tell you probably 80% of them have had at least one heart attack and are divorced at least once. And they're miserable. They made all this money, but they're miserable. I love teaching. I always say that I don't have I'm never going to be rich in a traditional sense, but I have a very rich lifestyle because I do something that I love and I have a lot of free time to dedicate to other passions, whether it's teaching online or developing online courses or trying new technologies. So I think representation early on is really, really, really important in the educational system. And, you know, of course, Covid has thrown a monkey wrench in the entire field for everybody, and that's across the board, you know, not just in STEM, but it's across the board everywhere. I could talk for hours about that, but.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:10:54] The low empathy environment thing about STEM education is that, and it really that hit me hard, too. I'm sorry. It all hits close to home for me growing up because you feel like a failure when you don't always understand some of the things and the math and the science, you know, in the world of STEM. And what I try to do is it's okay to fail for kids. It's really important that they understand that failure is actually a stepping stone. And I know that the social-emotional learning or skill that we call it in education is a big part of what I do, even though I am a secondary science teacher.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:11:34] That's why I always talk about the Sandy Hook Promise Saved Promise Club that I do so much because the kids need that environment. It's not just something that is, it stays in that little, you know, in the club atmosphere or even in the extracurricular atmosphere. We've got to start using that school social-emotional learning and the higher empathy in these STEM courses because there's not just a right or wrong environment. This process science is a process. Everything that we do and we learn as a process. So I just wanted to emphasize that's why I was so happy that you guys were tackling this with Labster because I believe that it's a real problem that we're having at all levels of education right now.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:12:19] And one more point before we move on. I think, unfortunately, the Internet has really dumbed down the population because I hear all the time, you know, from my exams, students are not allowed to take a calculator. And because, you know, as you know, calculators are so advanced, you cannot program an entire book into a calculator. So some of the security issues prevent students from taking those calculators in. And when I tell them that you can't use calculators on the exam, they lose their minds because they just think they can't do simple math.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:12:53] And I said, look, let's sit down. Let me show you how easy this is. You know how to do this. But you've been drilled in your head that you don't know how to do math. You don't know how to do math. I'm not a math person. You are. If you get that mantra out of your head and simply try and let me see you walk through the process. You are a math person, and once they have that, you know that that light go on in their head. It's one of the most rewarding things in teaching because you really see them open up their minds for something that was already there. It was dormant, but you've just added a little bit of water to it and now it's starting to grow.
Natalia Haimowitz/Labster: [00:13:33] I totally agree with this. I mean, these are fabulous insights, but fabulous insights you're sharing with us because it's a way of also not only reminding the students of the potential that they have. Bring them closer right to that result. And it's a good reminder in the earlier we intervene, the more likely we are to succeed in that. I feel like this is also what we're seeing in students, is the longer the time that happens with these skills being stopped by it, right, the longer they believe that they're not going to be able to achieve certain things. So I think it's is a great reminder and that you already do it in your classroom. This is great.
Natalia Haimowitz/Labster: [00:14:15] Continuing in this topic, I understand, Adam, you have shared previously with us that you that your university does not participate in weed-out classes. That is to say, these intense introductory level courses that only allow the highest-performing students to progress and to increase their student graduation rate. How does your institution design introductory courses for non-STEM majors to nurture a potential interest in the STEM fields?
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:14:47] Again, this most of my response here was going to be targeted towards my live in-class experience with LSU. You know, we have our traditional majors course and we have our non-majors course. I think in many aspects, teaching a non-majors course is more challenging than teaching a majors course because these students come into the classroom with the mindset that I hate biology, I hate science, I have to take it to quote unquote science level sequence just to get it out of the way. And all I need is a C or better or in some cases all I need is a D or better, and it just kills my heart because I say, you know what? A C is average. Do you want to be average? Who wants to be considered average? So no, that's not where you set your line. You set your line, you want an A going into the course.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:15:36] So in order for these classes to be successful, I don't think they would ever be targeted as a weed-out class simply because the team, the people that we have teaching these courses, myself included, have had a background of teaching non-science majors for a while and know how to present information that's in an informal but exciting manner to keep students engaged and keep students, you know, excited to learn because, you know, as I said before, there isn't one pattern that you can use for every student. Everyone learns differently. Some people are auditory learners. Some people are, you know, rote memorization learners. Other people have to write it out.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:16:20] So in my classroom, we do a lot of interactions between myself and the students to keep things fresh, to keep things new. And, you know, I'm kind of notorious for telling my students, Oh, I got a story. I got to tell you. Let me give you a personal example. But I find that these are the things that really keep the students engaged, even if they're laughing at me, because I laugh at myself all the time because I do say kind of goofy things. And I think back and I'm like, Oh God, they probably think I'm really weird. But when I have my reviews at the end of the semester, there's a very strong theme in the positive reviews. And if they love me or they hate me, but they say, You know, I always enjoyed coming to class because you kept it fresh, you told us stories, and you related things that I never really considered to be science or biology, and they do affect me.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:17:14] So, you know, I have other activities. I typically do activities where students can earn bonus points for a scavenger hunt. So we're covering fungus right now. And one of the things they can do is go out and find something called Bird's Nest fungus, and they walk on it coming to campus every day. And I said, you know, if you just stopped and looked down, biology is all around you and, you know, find a sample of this bird's nest fungi, take a picture with your ID uploaded to Moodle and I'll give you a bonus on the exam and they will sell their souls for a bonus point. But it's, it's cool because they're doing biology. They're doing something they never thought in a million years they would ever be doing in my course.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:17:57] So keeping those types of activities up to date and making students just feel comfortable to ask questions. Because I remember in school I always thought that my professors were up on this pedestal. They were this, you know, this godlike being and students were just at the bottom. I want to get rid of that mindset. That's why I'm Adam, I'm the same as you guys, three times as old. But if I'm here, I think students have more of an inkling to ask a question during the lecture. They don't feel like they're going to be made stupid or made fun of, or the professor replying "Well, you should know the answer to that if you do the readings".
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:18:39] Now there isn't a dumb question because if you don't know the answer, probably ten other people in the class don't know the answer. So that's kind of how I approach my classroom and I wish that would work for everybody. But it doesn't. Everybody has their own teaching style. I found that using those tools work well for me. They might not work well for someone else, but the whole goal is to get our students to learn the material and not memorize it. Memorized implies short-term learning. You regurgitated on an exam and then it's gone. You want to be able to hold on to these things so you can apply them in other courses or, you know, just apply them to your life as you're going through every day.
Natalia Haimowitz/Labster: [00:19:22] Absolutely also make that writing more relatable, less of an abstract concept. It's rather a practical, dynamic concept that we're interacting with every day on our way to school. Right, right, right. Gini, as a high school teacher and department chair, how do you nurture students into the direction of STEM and prepare them for STEM in higher education?
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:19:44] I'm going to piggyback on what Adam said, which is I can't connect the kids to science if they're not connected to me in some way, and to foster that connection. I'm really into the storytelling. For me, you know, I was born with this primary immune deficiency, so I always start my courses off in biology. When we talk about, I say, you know, I'm a living, breathing genetic punnet square because of these situations and my genetics. So we start that it's what I would call a phenomena which we were taught to use and Next Generation Science Standards. I am the phenomena, the things that have happened and my genetics and such.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:20:25] Another thing is I do try to connect them to because my background in marine biology, we are going through quite a lot on our planet right now. And climate change is such a prevalent part of our day in our life. So there's so much in science that is a current event. How much better of a subject can we teach? I don't. I'm excited every day of my life, not because I'm just living science, you know, I'm always a science experiment myself, but we're all in a bit of a petri dish here or spaceship Earth, however we want to call it. Right?
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:21:02] And if kids can see that - citizen science is a big part of what we should all be doing, project-based learning. And it does help that, you know, I am virtual now and I used to be a brick-and-mortar teacher like you, Adam. I'm able to accomplish so much more online with students than I would have ever thought before. Not just because Labster brings those experiences into the platform for me to be able to deliver the content. But even the connections that I've made, virtually, I've been a question judge for the National Science Bowl and I the connection I've made with some of my students, I knew that they wanted to be a physician's assistant. They were interested and in pursuing that career, just meeting people, networking.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:21:52] I met a graduate student with the wonderful National Science Bowl judges and she has been mentoring my student and my student was able to graduate early at age of 17 last year, and she's now in college. She finished up her high school career quite, quite young. But honestly, and she's coming back actually tomorrow again, she's mentoring my students. She was my student. So that mentoring, it happens at all levels. You know, I have mentors that I use and teaching. We've all had mentors, someone who helped us learn the ropes. But if we everybody gets a mentor, not just some assignment that's written on the board saying, oh, your job is to mentor so and so, but it's just a connection, a human connection that makes a career makes something more real and attainable. The trick is for everyone to think and know, because it's true, that it's attainable. Anybody can do any of these things if they want that.
Natalia Haimowitz/Labster: [00:22:58] What a great, great talk. I love hearing all this. It's such a great reminder in the topic of implementing new teaching skills. Right. In the 2022 op-ed article. How STEM faculty can fight Institutional Racism and Sexism, coauthored by Dr. Brown, it is noted that education experts have long known that antiquated methods like traditional lecture contributes to driving students out of STEM pathways. Lectures aren't great at promoting student engagement or sense of belonging, which are crucial ingredients for success, particularly among minoritized students. Our question to you is how do you modernize lectures to be more equitable for minority students and non-major students? And in the case of high school, lower [inaudible]. Adam, you have the floor.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:23:55] For my courses, I do something that I call biology in your backyard. And this is in my non-major course where I give students the opportunity to see things that are around them that they don't really notice or they don't appreciate because they think that science is just in the classroom or science is just in the laboratory doing experiments. So, you know, for example, we did a, I did a short video where I said, you know, today I'm going to do biology in the backyard. And I walked out the back of my home. There's a parking lot for the hospital that backs up. And I walked over and we were talking about horse tails type of plant, and I showed them and said, Listen, this is a horse tail right here, and it's growing.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:24:39] And these are really kind of evolutionarily old plants. And they have kind of an unusual characteristic in that they have silica that grows between the inner and old regions. So when you take a dry handful of these and you rub it between your hands, it almost feels like you have sand there. And the pioneers used to use these as basically Brillo pads because it was so easy to scrub the flatware on the dishes at the side of a river. So just telling those things helps students to bring biology down to a level that is relatable and, you know, gets them interested. And, you know, next time I'm walking to class, I'm going to look for these things or just some just making something relatable so that you keep their engagement and you keep them interested.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:25:27] You know, I always think that effective, some of the best teachers that I have had were always individuals that I found relatable on some level, even if it was someone completely, you know, not even close in terms of what I consider myself, but someone that I found that was engaging, someone that was funny, someone that at the end of class, I could go up and say, you know what? I had a question about that. But, you know, I didn't want to ask it in front of everybody because I didn't want to sound dumb. And they said, you know, you need to ask these questions because if you're questioning, I'm sure everyone else in the classroom is. And it gave me more confidence going through college to ask that question, to really kind of even challenge the system if I didn't think something was correct.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:26:14] So it's all about making the material relatable on the students' level and making them feel comfortable in the classroom. I think those are the two biggest things that can allow students, whether they're, you know, people of color or women or marginalized students, to keep going in the classroom and pursue that degree if they've been told their entire lives, no, you're just going to get a general education degree. That's it. That's all you need.
Natalia Haimowitz/Labster: [00:26:44] An invitation to continue, right? Mm hmm. Gini, how do we modernize a classroom in this case or our classes to be able to help these minoritized students? How do we get them skills or how do we get there?
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:27:00] So I've experienced this happening firsthand. I feel like in this online virtual platform where I work at the Savannah-Chatham, eLearning Academy, our school system, public education system created this online academy. All of the students are given the same technology. They all have access. They all have hotspots. Everyone is in the same place. They don't. If they don't have resources, we provide them the resources that they need to be successful on this online platform.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:27:30] So I've been very impressed. You know, I have a very innovative school system and not everybody is as lucky as I am. But in a traditional sense of how teachers are trained, I believe that professional development plays a big role and a lot. Yeah, big on that one, right, Adam? I will say that I'm a scientist who came into education, and if I heard the word pedagogy one more time, I was going to cry when I was young. I mean, I'm sorry, my Southern's coming out in me, but, you know, it's culturally relevant pedagogy that is probably at the forefront of what I find is most important.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:28:08] If I cannot make science relevant to an English language learner, ELL student, or to a student who has been marginalized, why am I here if I can't make it relevant? And honestly, it's hit close to home a lot lately because you don't realize, you know, even though a lot of the children that I'm working with on Zoom, you know, every day during class, you don't know where they're living and what circumstances are. And that when it comes to what they have access to, our school system has given them access to Labster. That's huge. They've never had access to something That's that game-changing.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:28:46] And I just feel that professional development. I was able to because our school district knew that we were going to have this opportunity to have this virtual academy. I received online teaching endorsement training for a year. It worked. It worked very well for me because until then, we're in that brick-and-mortar mentality. I think Adam, you can probably attest to that. It's two different worlds and there's not a lot of connecting it except for relationships. Relationships are still very important. But the way you communicate is so different.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:29:04] And honestly, I was trained to use the 5E model of learning, teaching, learning, so that doing an online lab is still a lab. It's not the same hands-on stuff like I loved your example, Adam, of you going outside and look under your feet. I do the same thing virtually, and I have to find it is a little bit tricky sometimes to make sure besides Labster that I'm using the right real world examples. You know, some things that I use as natural phenomena that actually are engaging the students. Because if we can't throw out our lines and hook the fish right, we are never going to catch them and catch their attention.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:30:05] So and on that note, you know, the first thing I did when I started teaching online in July of 2020 is this background had to change. It had to be eye-catching. You know, we're on a stage, even virtually. It's that we're not the central focus. The thing that I've noticed that's best about online learning. I'm a big fan of it is that students are actively independently learning online during their Labster's. They don't need me. I'm just the facilitator. If we do online learning correctly, which is what I learned from Cognia's Digital Learning Rubric, our accreditation resource. If you do it correctly and you provide them the lesson plan and the engaging activities, we're just curators and facilitators of learning if we're doing it right, right, and then we're there for support.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:30:58] And you know, with the great tales like Adam's, I've loved to come to your virtual classes. I can't wait. You're going to send me an invitation and vice versa. Professional development should be about teachers connecting, which is why I love the Community Campus for teachers. We're in our own little bubble like I am where we're stuck on our own pedagogy - there's the word again - and we do things the same every day. And if we see what everybody else is doing, it really gives me an opportunity to say, "Hey, I need to try that". And that's the best type of professional development is when you're able to set your own personal professional development plan and you can see what other people are doing. So education and science, all of this is about collaboration, which is why I'm always so thankful that Labster gives us these opportunities.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:31:52] Yeah, I agree 100%. And unfortunately, I think across the board and everywhere we've seen a reduction in you know, funding and resources. So professional development really relies on me finding the tools that I need and me connecting with other people versus pre-pandemic. I remember, you know, five, ten years ago I would go to the publisher for a textbook. They would they would win us and dinners and have all kinds of meetings and professional development. And yeah, it was great. We were learning a lot of things, but I won't lie. They put us up at really nice hotels. They spent tons of money on us and it was great and they paid for everything. We haven't done that in years and years. And, you know, I didn't do it just for the perks, but because it was nice to connect with people out there.
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:32:43] But now I think professional development has really kind of been placed on the shoulders of us to seek out. And that's where Labster's come in and really played kind of a segue to allow us to join together and exchange ideas and talk because we're all in the same boat - we just happen to be floating in different oceans, you know. So I'm really appreciative of that.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:33:07] No pun intended, we're into the eye catching. But let me ask you, Adam. As an avid AP environmental science teacher and I work really hard to make sure I deliver course materials with the College Board. Have you had any students like I'm 100% all virtual teaching AP Environmental science using Labster and other programs to deliver the course content. Have you had any students come your way that are have AP Environmental Science or even AP Biology in their portfolio?
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:33:42] Definitely. For my first semester freshmen coming in, I have quite a few students. There's a very good population and I typically call them my curve busters because those are the students ... and I could you know, it's interesting because I teach in these gigantic classrooms for my live courses and we see like 300 people. I can almost predict what grade you're going to get based on where you sit the first day, because all my AP students are right up front. They're the ones that are there. If someone sits in their seat when they come in, even though it's not assigned seats, the look that they give them, "because that's my seat. I sit in the front row because I want to be able to ask the questions. I want to make sure that I understand something. I want to stop the lecture if there's something that's not clear".
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:34:27] So we do have a great number of AP students that come in. And I love those students because they really, really are the ones that want to exceed. They want the extra material. They want to understand it beyond what I'm teaching. And it's interesting because I've had students that go from my non-majors course and say, you know what, this stuff is really cool. I think I want to be a biology major, make the jump into the majors course and then come back, you know, ten years later saying, you know, I'm in my second year of residency as a med student and you wrote me a letter of recommendation and I got into med school and I, I just want to come back and say hello. And those things are like, oh, my God, my heart. You know, it just it makes it so rewarding on so many levels.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:35:14] You sound like me. I cry every time. My graduate from last year, she comes to speak to the students and mentor them, and I sit here and dab tears the whole thing up because none of us have met in person and we're so connected. And it just goes to show you that in this new world environment, 21st-century learning is totally different. We have to embrace it because we have to meet the kids where they are and they prefer that.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:35:39] And honestly, talking about accessibility, I'm so pleased that the College Board and the AP program is so accessible to all students, and it goes back to that binary myth is that even, you know, we always try. You were talking about weeding out the students who aren't all majors. We we have we want every child in our school to take an AP class regardless of the outcome of the AP exam. It's the actual taking the course and learning how to learn at a college level and interacting and in small groups like that because usually in small groups. So I think that that really is a very diverse population and it did not used to be. I think that they've done a really good job.
Gini Lea Ennis: [00:36:21] The College Board, I'm not, I don't work for them or anything, but I just love that all of a sudden in the last 20 years that I've been in education, it's not just a certain group of students taking the AP courses. You may get a student that made a one on a AP exam, Adam But those kids love science, right? They learned a lot, but their AP exam, just like most exams, is not a reflection of that, right? I know you feel me when I say that, right?
Dr. Adam Hrincevich: [00:36:50] So preaching to the choir here.
Natalia Haimowitz/Labster: [00:36:55] I appreciate it so much. You both remind me of one biology teacher I had because I didn't have many of these, but one of them I remember she came in the first day of the class of the year and she said, we have a problem. Biology is trapped and on the board and we need to rescue. We need to get it out of there. It reminded me also of your approach, you bring it closer to us. It's all around us. We can all learn about this. We all have this challenge and we can all at the same time challenge any limitations that we think we have. So definitely this this task really hit home.
Natalia Haimowitz/Labster: [00:37:36] Thank you so much. Amazing stories and takeaways from both our faculty participants today. We can say with the correct nurturing approach, students interested in STEM subjects have the opportunity to increase, but educators and administration need to continue to advocate for and implement change in the teaching environment to make them accessible to everyone. That wraps up today's faculty roundtable discussion on STEM retention. If you want to learn more about Dr. Brown's TED Talk, op-ed piece, or to connect with Dr. Hrincevich, Gini Ennis, and other STEM educators, please join us on the Labster Community Campus Teacher Forum. Thank you both for sharing your experiences and professional insight. It has been a pleasure speaking with you today and I hope to see you soon again around the Community Campus.
Isabel Tran: [00:00:00] Labster offers 24-seven access to world-class laboratories, scientific equipment and safe learning environments that most students would never get a chance to experience otherwise. Research shows that Labster's biggest impact is on students who need the most help. This is core to our mission helping schools and universities make sure that all students, regardless of who they are or where they live, get a chance to succeed.
Mark Fuller: [00:00:46] Today we are excited to announce new features and products that will help make your science and nursing programs more equitable, more accessible and more successful in the coming 2023 24 academic year. In the past year alone, we've expanded what's included in a Labster subscription. This means adding more than 50 new science simulations, hundreds of supplements and a completely new virtual reality nursing solution. We've also extended access for non-native English speakers and students with disabilities, and launched new mobile apps for iPads and Chromebooks, upgraded our LMS experience, and built a thriving online educator community for teachers to network and share knowledge.
Ginelle Testa: [00:01:45] We're continuing with more product additions and upgrades in 2023. This month we're pleased to announce updates to over 100 Labster simulations across a variety of academic disciplines, a brand new skeletal system simulation that will help round out Labster's anatomy and physiology package, and a new feature that allows the Labster iOS app to be opened directly from Canvas, Blackboard and other major elemental systems.
Drew Linder: [00:02:10] We're also happy to introduce a new accessibility VPAT report and roadmap showing our path to WCG 2.1 Compliance. A new course manager home page with better onboarding instructions, course information and recommended simulations, and new educator and student guides that help you understand how to get started and make the most out of your Labster experience.
Valeria Guedes: [00:02:44] We are now preparing updates that will help faculty and administrators improve results for the upcoming academic year. First off, our Catalog Excellence team is preparing to roll out major usability improvements to more than 80% of Labster's simulations. These updates will help students if they ever get stuck in a simulation.
Dr. One: [00:03:10] Let me highlight the relevant objects for you.
Valeria Guedes: [00:03:12] And navigate around the lab room more easily.
Mark Fuller: [00:03:17] And on our student and educator platform, faculty will have more visibility into their courses, students and assessments. This will allow them to better track student engagement and success and to intervene with certain students when needed. We're also exploring ways to show program or department-level results to school leaders. This will help them more easily see Labster's impact at a macro level. And finally, stay tuned for a big announcement about customization options for Labster's simulations. More news coming soon.
Isabel Tran: [00:03:57] These changes are just the beginning. Labster is poised for future growth with the goal of adding more disciplines, more learning tools and new features that will help your program drive and stay competitive. We are committed to growing with you by providing an immersive, active learning science platform that is second to none. Thank you.