Chapter 12: Increasing the Participation of Underrepresented Minorities in STEM Classes through Student-Instructor Partnerships

Desika Narayanan and Sophia Abbot

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In this chapter, we explore the impact of a student-faculty partnership on increasing the participation of underrepresented minority students in an astrophysics class. We describe the evolution of one class aimed at prospective majors in the fall of their sophomore year, and one class aimed at first-year students as an introduction to the field broadly. We discuss the techniques employed in our partnership to make sense of students’ experiences and offer feedback on teaching. The chapter is conversational and dialogic as Desika (the instructor) and Sophia (the former student) reflect together on themes that overlap between their course experience and the partnership experience itself: clarifying expectations, pausing and checking in, and reassuring and acknowledging.

Reflection Questions for Readers

  • How can small moments instill a sense of belonging in the classroom and in a partnership?
  • What factors have affected your sense of belonging in higher education? What steps can you take (from your position) to positively instill that sense of belonging in others?
  • How have classroom activities affected your sense of enthusiasm in a class?