The social context of STEM performance

Maria Calderon


Introductory biology is considered an important gateway STEM course in that performance there is often predictive of students, particularly historically disenfranchised students, staying in the major or leaving for non-STEM. Evidence from the psychosocial literature have identified numerous social externalities that impact student performance in these classrooms. In this study we more closely examined the historical contexts of ethnicity, socioeconomic statuses, and high school experience on student performance in the classroom to determine if a) these demographic variables had predictive power and b) if inclusive practices can mitigate the psychological effects of them. Students from marginalized backgrounds generally performed poorly in highly didactic classroom structures but were three times as likely to get a B or above in classrooms where the pedagogical structure was inclusive. Our results has strong implications for the ways in which teaching practices are cultivated and enacted in introductory STEM courses. Inclusive teaching can be particularly transformative for students who have historically been excluded or who have forced out of STEM disciplines.