Educational Studies

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    Affirmations From “Home”: The Role of Relational Counterspaces in the Success of Underrepresented Minority Undergraduates in STEM
    (2022) Edziah, Amy-Ann; Smulyan, Lisa; Vollmer, Amy Cheng
    Why Study Persistence and Attrition in Underrepresented Minorities in College Biology? When I took my first steps on campus as a freshman, I had no intention of majoring in education at all. I had never seriously considered education as a field of study or as a career I could pursue, but as a product of an inner-city public school system, the aspect of education I had always been attuned to was the inequity in the experiences of students like myself compared to the students of the suburban public schools and the private schools, many of whom would be my classmates in college. When I got to my first STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) course at Swarthmore, it was glaringly obvious that I would spend the next 4 years being “one of the only” in more ways than one. As a Black, non-male, low-income student of biology, I naturally found myself asking why there were so few people who shared my identities in the courses and the department as a whole. As I processed hearing many of my Black femme peers express that the intro biology courses had killed their joy for the subject and watching some drop the courses and change their academic trajectories, I also found myself balancing my own love for the subject and the reality that, honestly speaking, biology at Swarthmore was not treating me well. It felt like I was always struggling—struggling to understand, struggling to be seen, and ultimately failing to see the justification of my struggle. We could all agree, my friends and I, that things were harder than they should be and we weren’t to blame. My decision to pursue biology and education was born of my desire to approach what was clearly a systemic issue from a critical pedagogical perspective. What was it about the structure, the content, the landscape of college biology, Swarthmore biology in particular, that made so many underrepresented students feel the same way?
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    Climate Change Education through a Social Justice Framework: A necessary first step towards solving the climate crisis
    (2021) Owen-Oliner, Leah
    Global climate change is one of – if not the most – urgent crises of the modern era. Every decade in the past forty years has been successively hotter than any decade preceding it since the 1850s, a historically unprecedented acceleration resulting in heat waves, droughts, cyclones, and other weather and climate extremes (IPCC, 2021). Barring profound and swift decreases in greenhouse gas emissions, recent models predict an increase of at least 1.5˚C greater than pre-industrial measures (IPCC, 2021), surpassing the previously established international maximum goal (UNFCCC, 2015). As should be all too clear, dramatic yet rapid changes must be made now to preclude the increasing severity, frequency, and duration of climate-related disasters accompanying every additional degree of warming (IPCC, 2021). However, despite this ostensibly bleak picture, room for hope exists: scientists posit that reaching net-zero carbon emissions by approximately 2050 would arrest and plateau global warming at around 1.5˚C, forestalling the sharp escalation in risks associated with increases exceeding that threshold (Plumer & Fountain, 2018).
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    What characterizes equitable and effective assessment and instructional practices for EL students in the secondary STEM classroom?
    (2022) Holt, Hannah; Renninger, K Ann
    English learners (ELs) need to be equipped with tools that can help them find success in their secondary school STEM classes, as well as for the world beyond high school. There is a delicate balance between making sure the curriculum provides all the necessary tools for later success, and also allowing students to use their linguistic and cultural diversity to enable their learning process. Thus, teachers must consider both effectiveness and equity in the design of their instruction and assessment. This literature review compiles the findings and research of educators seeking to provide better resources for content teachers with ELs in their classes. Effective instructional practices like visual aids, pre-teaching vocabulary and sentence frames can be used to help support EL students in meeting both language and content standards. Equitable classroom practices such as normalizing translation and translanguaging, incorporating culturally sustaining pedagogy, and encouraging inquiry-based student discussions all serve ELs’ need for positive identity formation in STEM. Both how and when these practices are implemented are also considered. Suggested adaptations will vary across each specific unit, discipline and grade level, so it requires collaboration among language and content educators to figure out which strategies make the most sense in which contexts. Most importantly, these instructional modifications are framed as assets-based rather than deficit-based approaches. There is pedagogical value for all students, whether they are learning English for the first time, speak other languages at home, use different dialects of English, or are monolingual English speakers.
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    Resisting the Western Scientist Inside and Outside of the Collegiate Biology Classroom
    (2022) Ventura, Dulce Guadalupe; Mayorga, Edwin; Vallen, Elizabeth
    In this thesis, I explore how conceptions of western science and scientists invade the Swarthmore Biology department and how it impacts BIPOC students inside and outside the classroom. The findings indicate that BIPOC students are routinely harmed by many ideas conceived from colonialism. However, both students and faculty demonstrate resistance inside and outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, faculty members build strong relationships with students in small communities and negate Western science's claim of objectivity. Outside of the classroom, programs like the Biology Big Sibling-Little Sibling program are recentering BIPOC students and their lived experiences, effectively creating a community where BIPOC students can safely exist.
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    Race and Language: A Blueprint for Structuring an Educational Curriculum about the Black Experience in the United States
    (2022) Paulson, Joel; Mayorga, Edwin
    It should surprise no one that the condition of race relations in this country is as poor now as they are. With recent and historical events that have occurred in this country in relation to the Black experience (indeed the experience of any of the marginalized communities that call the United States their home), the logical history lesson is that our children should be educated as in the words of George Santayana; “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” In this way, we see the wave of protests, court cases, and rhetoric surrounding race welling up around the nation. Conflicts in the legislative bodies, the court system, the prison system, the educational system, and many more have become increasingly common. With no set curriculum across any of the fifty states to educate youth on the experience of Black folx and African Americans in this country, it should come as no surprise that we do see history repeating itself and racial conditions deteriorating (if they were ever even “better” to begin with).