04 Mar 2022
04 Mar 2022

Building confidence in STEM students through breaking (unseen) barriers

Philip Joseph Heron1 and Jamie A. Williams2 Philip Joseph Heron and Jamie A. Williams
  • 1University of Toronto Scarborough, Dept of Physical and Environmental Sciences, Toronto ON, Canada
  • 2Spectrum First Education, Leeds, UK

Abstract. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects have historically struggled to be inclusive and accessible to students from diverse backgrounds. The field of geoscience, in particular, has also had challenges in diversity with respect to staff and student recruitment. The consequence of non-inclusive practices still propagates today, with certain demographics not engaging in STEM activities. As a result, there needs to be conscious efforts to adopt equity, diversity, and inclusive (EDI) initiatives for subjects such as geoscience to grow. In this article, we outline the steps we have taken to break down known (and unknown) barriers to education in the teaching of a science outreach course to a diverse student body. Our outreach course, Think Like A Scientist, has been running in a number of UK prisons since 2019. Although the program is tailored to the restrictive prison environment, the application of its core principles to education are fundamental EDI practises that could be beneficial to a wide audience. In this paper, we outline our reasoning for specific pedagogical choices in the classroom when working with students that have low confidence in STEM education, and highlight the need for engagement that is relatable, accessible, inclusive, and offers encouragement.

Philip Joseph Heron and Jamie A. Williams

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-16', Lucy Beattie, 09 Apr 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Philip Heron, 27 Jul 2022
  • CC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-16', Scott King, 12 May 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on CC1', Philip Heron, 27 Jul 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-16', Julie Jebsen, 16 May 2022
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC2', Philip Heron, 27 Jul 2022

Philip Joseph Heron and Jamie A. Williams

Philip Joseph Heron and Jamie A. Williams


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Short summary
’Think Like A Scientist’ is a geoscience course designed to improve critical thinking and encourage independent thought for people in prison. Based on course feedback, we outline practical advice when dealing with students who do not engage in formal education – specifically for students who have no confidence in themselves or the education system. To tackle this, we focus on how to create a classroom dynamic that is accessible, inclusive, and relatable to students from all backgrounds.