students in the Advanced Training Lab


University researchers create proven teaching method that raises visibility of diversity in STEM

Senior Lecturer Dr Dom Henri and Reader Dr Katharine Hubbard, from the Department of Biological and Marine Sciences, as well as Masters student Kirra Coates, have been working on a new study which has now been formally published in PLOS ONE.

This study, titled ‘I Am A Scientist: Overcoming biased assumptions around diversity in science through explicit representation of scientists in lectures,’ has found that, in the absence of cues such as full names and photographs, more than 50% of students assume the authors of scientific papers used during teaching are male and Western.

Dr Dom Henri explains more: “Research suggests that Western STEM education and exposure to science during adolescence instils an implicit bias that scientists are more likely to be white, male, able-bodied, and Western. This is thought to contribute to many of the issues facing the global science community today.”

While many people want to help, there is a lack of evidence-based practices that can be implemented by individual educators to contribute to raising the profile of diversity in STEM. Our research is about providing some simple actions that could allow everyone to be part of the solution.

Dr Dom Henri

This study involved exploring the potential for adapting presentation slides within lectures to ‘humanise’ the scientists involved, presenting their full names and photographs alongside a Harvard style reference.

A questionnaire-based methodology was then implemented – with a survey involving 161 bioscience undergraduates and postgraduates.

Post-lecture reflections suggested that the humanised slide design had positively changed perceptions about diversity in science for a small but significant number of students (~24%). However, 75% of respondents felt that it was good pedagogic practice.

Dr Katharine Hubbard
dominic henri
Dr Dom Henri

There were a number of reasons given for this in addition to raising awareness of diversity in STEM including: helping students to realise the authors of research are just people like them, providing appropriate recognition for hard working scientists, and helping students to remember key case studies. Preliminary evidence showed that female and non-binary students were more likely to perceive humanised slides as good pedagogical practice.

The presentation of photographs and full names of scientists, alongside formal citations, was shown to have a positive impact on some student’s sense of belonging.

Dr Dom Henri expands further: “From our research, we recommend adopting a humanised slide design in research-led teaching materials, so that students can have a better appreciation of the actual diversity of practising scientists that is masked by the formal citation.

“In our experience, adopting this slide design actively encourages instructors to seek out papers with a diverse authorship. This change could see academics giving better representation to a range of scientists without having to find additional space within the curriculum.”

To read the report in further detail, please click here.

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