Intentionality, Accountability, and Growth: Insights and future directions from DEIJR symposia facilitated at national meetings of the American Chemical Societypublished Oct 3, 2023 11:17pm
Creating space for discussions and presentations about issues of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Respect (DEIJR) is a means of building momentum for systemic change in discipline-based education research (DBER) communities. In this two-part blog, I, Stephanie Feola, and co-organizer Guizella Rocabado will share the lessons we've learned throughout this change process. In the first installment, we described the lessons learned from instituting the change of creating a space for DEIJR research and conversations during the American Chemical Society National Meetings. In this second installment, we share how the focus of the presentations, the nature of the discussions, and theorizing about DEIJR have changed since we began organizing the symposium in 2019 and draw implications for systemic change.
In our previous blog post, we discussed the creation and evolution of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Respect (DEIJR) in Chemistry Education symposium that we organized and presided over at the American Chemical Society's Spring National Meetings from 2019-2023. Since the 2019 symposium, we have had presentations from undergraduate students, graduate students, high school teachers, higher education instructors, chemistry education researchers, chemistry discipline researchers, education technology developers, and administrators. Many of our presenters have been people with marginalized identities who presented on their personal experiences in chemistry spaces, their personal teaching practices related to DEIJR, technology that has been developed to address accessibility needs, institutional change initiatives focused on student outcomes, and education research. Ahead, we describe a number of salient themes that have emerged that provide us with insight into future directions for chemistry education research and organizing symposia at conferences where these conversations are welcomed.
Intentionality is necessary to facilitate productive conversations
When Guizella and I were organizing the symposium, we intentionally cast a wide net of researchers and practitioners who could share insights from their work and personal experiences. Through this intentional process, the presenters brought a variety of topics to the conversations being had during the symposium (Table 1).
(Canceled due to COVID-19)
Gender and race/ethnicity discussed in a general way
Accessibility tool for blind and partially sighted students
Intersection of gender and race/ethnicity
Affect and identity (students and faculty)
Burmese refugee students experiences
Affect and identity (students)
International Teaching Assistants (ITAs)
Experience of a Blind biochemist
Inequities and the pandemic
Identity, cultural context, intersectionality
Institutional barriers and change
Equity and Assessment
Asset based frameworks/ approaches
Identity, cultural context, intersectionality, and affect
Asset based frameworks/ approaches
Institutional barriers and change
Table 1. Summary of presentation topics included in presentations.
Part of our intentional approach was for us to model the recognition of and centering of intersectional identities. Intersectionality is a lens that allows us to see the interaction of multiple identities, both social and political, that result in unique experiences with discrimination and privilege (Crenshaw, 2017). If you are interested in a deeper look at intersectionality we have a resource available at the end of the article, along with other concepts covered in the article. One of the ways that we acknowledged intersections is through intentional modeling. Guizella and I, at the beginning of the symposium, modeled the sharing of our pronouns, which highlights our experiences based on our gender, our ethnic and racial backgrounds, and other identities. By recognizing the various intersections that we bring, we hoped others would share their identities. Over time, more and more presenters shared their own pronouns and identities at the beginning or during their presentations.
Before and after the presentation sessions, Guizella and I would debrief and discuss what happened in the session and how we may need to change our approaches to our facilitation. We also worked to model what it means to use respectful language or "call-out" and "call-in" speakers. A "call-out" is when you publically bring attention to an individual or group's harmful words or behavior. A "call-in" invitation to a one-on-one or small group conversation to discuss harmful words or behavior. The audience became more active over time in helping in "calling out and in" people who were not using respectful language or whose work seemed to be more deficit-framed. One example of language changes over time is the use of the phrase "underrepresented minority (URM)" which is a deficit-framed phrase and inaccurate to the people it is used to describe. Deficit language is needs-focused and problematizes a person or groups of people; whereas, asset-based language and pedagogies are opportunity-focused and recognize the strengths that individuals and groups have. (Note it is important to not mistake deficit framing with problematizing systems of power and privilege.)
Through intentional pushing back on the use of outdated and deficit-framed language like URM, we have seen a shift in how participants change their language to terms like "marginalized identities'', "historically underserved groups'', and other phrases that better describe the structural source of the inequity. Asset-based language to discuss systemic inequities is nuanced and can be supported by a guide to recognize asset and deficit terms in education. Over time, other languages and topics have shifted, in 2021 we had people begin to talk about LGBTQIA+, disabilities, and other topics that were not represented in the 2019 symposium. This process was not without growing pains, there were a few instances where presenters and audience members were not receptive to change. One of our areas for growth in facilitation is to develop strategies to help engage those who are resistant to change in the conference setting. There are also some persistent topics like retention. While not inherently problematic, retention can be surface-level and deficit-framed. Retention can be used as a proxy for meeting a quota rather than making meaningful changes to structural barriers that prevent marginalized people from being included in STEM. However, we believe that with the evolution and diversification of topics and perspectives presented in the symposium, more nuanced, effective, and asset-based approaches to address and discuss retention are the future next steps.
Meaningful changes happen with listening, vulnerability, and accountability
We wanted to be sure that the space that we cultivated in this symposium was one where people used a common language to discuss and engage with DEIJR topics. Through the discussions we have had, many people come to recognize that DEIJR is not a checklist, it is a process that one uses to work towards addressing systemic inequities. These difficult conversations require a delicate balance between "calling-in" and "calling-out" with a priority on centering marginalized voices and harm reduction. This has evolved over time is in how people engage with DEIJR topics and how people sit in their own discomfort with those conversations. The conversations in 2019 were productive but there was much resistance to the conversations or acknowledgement of personal reinforcement in systemic issues. Some of the biggest changes in conversations since Spring 2019, are the willingness to share vulnerabilities of personal experiences, speaking truth to power, and talking about accountability for mistakes made.
One such exchange happened in the Spring 2023 symposium, where in one of the discussions a presenter talked about their personal teaching practices and expressed concern about not wanting to do the wrong thing. A call-out was done to acknowledge their admission and challenge them that their fear of making mistakes does not help the people that they want to support and does not help dismantle systemic inequities. From there a delicate but powerful conversation ensued amongst the panelists and those in the audience sharing their own vulnerabilities of where they have made mistakes and where growth has come from those mistakes. Another powerful and vulnerable exchange came when an undergraduate student asked why there was no conversation happening at the symposium about student mental health and how it impacts outcomes in chemistry. This student's call-out was very necessary and appropriate for us as organizers and for everyone in attendance to recognize that mental health needs to be a deliberate component of DEIJR conversations.
Fore-fronting marginalized voices, building cultural competency, and integrating asset framing into discipline-based education practice and research are necessary steps forward.
Many of the presenters over the years shared their personal experiences as students, researchers, and practitioners. They shared their successes, their culture, identities, and their hopes for the future. They have also reminded us that the work is always ongoing. Here is a concise list of areas for future growth that have come from our discussions:
- Conversations in education need to change from problematizing students and professionals (deficit frame) to recognizing what they bring to the table (asset frame).
- The cultural knowledge and methods in STEMM, such as indigenous students and professionals, needs to be intentionally considered and valued in developing pedagogy and training for scientific fields
- Recognition that social and political issues are not independent of the topics we cover in STEMM classrooms.
- Listening to student voices so that we can understand their experiences and identities is necessary to inform institutional change in education.
- Standardized testing, even those developed by discipline-based education researchers, like ACS Exams, contribute to structural inequities and inequitable outcomes.
- Disability and accessibility are often treated as an afterthought and need significantly more attention by both the researcher and practitioner communities.
- Mental health in the STEMM is a meaningful area for conversation and research to help improve student outcomes.
Developing the DEIJR symposia has reinforced our understanding that intentional and sustained conversations are necessary for progress. Communication and discussion allow us to learn, find new places for inquiry, and grow together in this work. This also reinforced that the conversation needs to engage everyone but most importantly foreground those whose voices are the focus of DEIJR initiatives to help drive us forward. I think that there is one meaningful interaction that we had in this process that exemplifies why this work is necessary. At the end of one of the days of our symposium in Spring 2022, a Black conference technician who helped with our sessions expressed how happy he was seeing the conversations that were happening. He expressed excitement that people were doing research and having these conversations intentionally to work toward dismantling structural inequities in chemistry education. These discussions have far-reaching implications and do not just impact our students but everyone around us. And this is why this symposium started, and why we hope it will continue always.
Crenshaw, K. W. (2017). On intersectionality: Essential writings. The New Press.
We recommend searching out stories shared by people of different intersecting identities and their experiences in STEM. While this is not an exhaustive list, these resources are good places to start. We have included in the list resources linked in the text of this blog and additional resources.
Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw defining Intersectionality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=shared&v=ViDtnfQ9FHc
A comprehensive guide and resource repository about intersectionality: https://researchguides.library.syr.edu/fys101/intersectionality
A guide about "calling-in" and "calling-out": https://edib.harvard.edu/files/dib/files/calling_in_and_calling_out_guide_v4.pdf
A talk by Dr. Loretta J. Ross titled "Calling in the Calling Out Culture" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0Y25_HUUYY&ab_channel=UniversityofMichigan-Dearborn
A guide on asset and deficit frames in education: https://www.heretohere.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/H2H-Language-Guide_A-Resource-for-Using-Asset-Based-Language-with-Young-People.pdf
An article on community cultural wealth:
Yosso T., (2005), Whose culture has capital? A Critical Race Theory discussion of community cultural wealth., Race Ethn. Educ., 8(1), 69-91 DOI: 10.1080/1361332052000341006
A website describing Asset based pedagogies:
An article related to abolitionist teaching practices:
Vanessa N. Louis & Natalie S. King (2022) Emancipating STEM Education through Abolitionist Teaching: A Research-practice Partnership to Support Virtual Microteaching Experiences, Journal of Science Teacher Education, 33:2, 206-226, DOI: 10.1080/1046560X.2021.2012957
An article related to Student mental health in STEM: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acspolymersau.2c00062
A website post about mental health and graduate students in STEM: https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2021/the-mental-health-crisis-in-science/
An article related to Indigenous students and professionals in STEMM:
Castagno, A. E., Ingram, J. C., Camplain, R., & Blackhorse, D. (2022). "We constantly have to navigate": Indigenous students' and professionals' strategies for navigating ethical conflicts in STEMM. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 17(3), 683-700. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11422-021-10081-5
A seminar lecture by Dr. Gregory Cajete (Tewa) titled "Native STEM Education: Native Science and Natural Laws of Interdependence"
Further seminar lectures like the one by Dr. Cajete can be found with other resources related to Indigenous tribal self governance, research, and policy at the University of Arizona's Indigenous Resilience Center
An article related to Black student experience in STEM:
Racheal Greaves, Bozhena Kelestyn, Richard A. R. Blackburn, and Russell R. A. Kitson The Black Student Experience: Comparing STEM Undergraduate Student Experiences at Higher Education Institutions of Varying Student Demographic Journal of Chemical Education 2022 99 (1), 56-70 DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.1c00402
An article related to Latine students in STEM:
Hernandez Negrete, A., & Caporale, N. Towards asset-based LatCrit pedagogies in STEM: Centering Latine students' strengths to reimagine STEM teaching and practice. In Frontiers in Education (Vol. 8, p. 1176913). Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feduc.2023.1176913/full
An article related to Asian students and professionals in STEM:
Vue, Z., Vang, C., Vue, N., Kamalumpundi, V., Barongan, T., Shao, B., ... & Behringer, R. R. (2023). Asian Americans in STEM are not a monolith. Cell, 186(15), 3138-3142. https://www.cell.com/cell/pdf/S0092-8674(23)00692-X.pdf
An article related to LGBTQIA+ students and professionals in STEM:
Cech, E. A., & Waidzunas, T. J. (2021). Systemic inequalities for LGBTQ professionals in STEM. Science advances, 7(3), eabe0933. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abe0933
Research article related to LGBTQIA+ and Disability in STEM:
Miller, R. A., & Downey, M. (2020). Examining the STEM Climate for Queer Students with Disabilities. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 33(2), 169-181. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1273676.pdf
An article from the National Academies about the summit held in Summer 2023 about making STEMM more accessible to people with disabilities. This article also includes links to recordings made of the summit's discussion panels with most featuring disabled students and professionals in STEMM.
Research article related to Ableism in academia:
Leigh, J., Caplehorne, J., & Slowe, S. (2023). Ableism and Exclusion: Challenging Academic Cultural Norms in Research Communication. Journal of Research Management and Administration, 2(1), 030220232. https://doi.org/10.18552/jorma.v2i1.764
An article related to Accessibility tools for Blind and partially sighted people:
Koone, J. C., Dashnaw, C. M., Alonzo, E. A., Iglesias, M. A., Patero, K. S., Lopez, J. J., ... & Shaw, B. F. (2022). Data for all: Tactile graphics that light up with picture-perfect resolution. Science Advances, 8(33), eabq2640. https://www.science.org/doi/full/10.1126/sciadv.abq2640
An article related to Sign language in the organic chemistry classroom:
Kaitlyn Clark, Asma Sheikh, Jennifer Swartzenberg, Ashley Gleason, Cody Cummings, Jonathan Dominguez, Michelle Mailhot, and Christina Goudreau Collison Sign Language Incorporation in Chemistry Education (SLICE): Building a Lexicon to Support the Understanding of Organic Chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education 2022 99 (1), 122-128 DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.0c01368
Feola, S. & Rocabado, G. A. (October 3, 2023). Intentionality, Accountability, and Growth: Insights and future directions from DEIJR symposia facilitated at national meetings of the American Chemical Society. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://ascnhighered.org/ASCN/dei_stemm_blog/279635.html
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