Understanding barriers to participation within undergraduate STEM laboratories: towards development of an inclusive curriculum

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Abstract

The increase in student diversity, legislative changes and shift towards the social model of disability has led to greater emphasis on inclusive curricula within Higher Education (HE). Whilst there are good examples for changes in assessment, delivery and student support, specific challenges faced by Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics students in relation to laboratory teaching are less well understood. A questionnaire approach was used to determine barriers that students face within laboratory teaching. Questionnaire invitations were distributed by email to undergraduate students at institutions within the United Kingdom with a total of 232 responses. Results indicated a lower sense of belonging for female students and those with a disability. Differences between ethnic groups could not be identified due to low numbers of Black Asian, Minority Ethnic students, which highlights broader issues of participation in STEM subjects. Prior experience of students in relation to the number of labs, rather than subject, was also important, emphasising the critical link between school and HE. Communication of information was critical for learning with students often requiring multiple methods; timing and structure of this were important. A more inclusive lab environment can be developed through the use of online support, better structuring of labs and changes to assessment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of biological education
Early online date4 Jan 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jan 2022

Keywords

  • mental health
  • disability
  • gender
  • assessment
  • belonging
  • mature students

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