Working Group 1 has nurtured multiple projects to work towards its mission of identifying and evaluating measurements of inequities in STEM courses. One of the working group’s efforts explores the effects of student demographics in introductory STEM courses. By conducting parallel data analyses across the SEISMIC institutions, participants worked to characterize how the complex identities of students interact with STEM learning environments. The group formalized the Systemic Advantage Index, a scale that indicates the advantages that characterize students within institutions according to race, gender, socioeconomic status, and first-generation status. Using this, Sarah Castle and other members of WG1 explored multi-institutional practices for mapping systemic advantages within STEM courses (Castle et al., 2021). Another paper concerning the impact of systemic advantage on student outcomes is currently in review, and will hopefully be published soon.
Another WG1 project focused on the impact that Advanced Placement (AP) course credit has on student success in introductory science courses. Christian Fischer and other members of WG1 identified that institutional and departmental policies concerning AP credit varied widely. Additionally, the group found that there was variety in the way students approached using AP credit to skip courses (Fischer et al., 2023).
Working Group 1’s progress was not without challenges, however. Often, the data they were primarily working with was institutional data, meaning information about the courses and their students was collected by the universities themselves. This frequently left many unknown elements when looking at data, such as specific student identities and other unique student experiences, leading WG1 members to wonder, “How can we describe inequities in an effective, meaningful, and actionable way?”
To address this in part, WG1 consulted with members of Working Group 4: Constructs (WG4), who were familiar with applying new frameworks and perspectives to STEM education research. “They provided us with food for thought [and] and ways of moving this work forward while accounting for the limitations of our data,” Fiorini explains. WG4 assisted WG1 with integrating critical approaches into quantitative STEM equity working, investigating systemic inequities present in higher education and their historical roots. Pearson et al. (2022) is a great example of the two working groups collaborating to inform future analyses concerning systemic inequity in STEM fields.
Matz and Fiorini are hopeful that WG1 will continue to develop the knowledge and skills needed to work towards changing inequitable practices and adverse structural elements, even after the end of SEISMIC 1.0. The two also have future topics they’d like for the group to explore, including analyzing data generated from learning management systems and using WG1’s strong relationships to do research that impacts an even broader audience of researchers, administrators, and faculty.