COSM Diversity & Inclusion News

March 2021


The Diversity & Inclusion newsletter is delivered monthly via email during the fall and spring semesters and is always available on the new COSM D&I webpage. Send contributions and suggestions to any of the COSM D&I Ambassadors listed at the bottom of this newsletter and on the webpage.

Diversity Quote of the Month

"Inclusive teaching is not about giving any group of students special treatment or lowering our standards. Instead, it starts from the recognition that all students can learn. But at the same time, not all students start at the same starting point. So it brings a commitment to removing obstacles, so that all students can perform to the best of their abilities and fulfill their potential.” Michele DiPietro, PhD, EdX, Inclusive Teaching: Supporting All Students in the College Classroom

"Inclusive teaching is not about giving any group of students special treatment or lowering our standards. Instead, it starts from the recognition that all students can learn. But at the same time, not all students start at the same starting point. So it brings a commitment to removing obstacles, so that all students can perform to the best of their abilities and fulfill their potential.”

Michele DiPietro, PhD, EdX, Inclusive Teaching: Supporting All Students in the College Classroom

Fact Fuel for Data Conversations

Gap in percent passing (%) on y-axis vs. Instructional Method. Two data points, passive instruction = -6.8 and active instruction = -4.0. Error bars do not overlap.

Average achievement gaps between majority and minoritized (Black, Indigenous, People of Color, or low-income) students in STEM classes.

Data was aggregated from more than 45,000 students in a meta-analysis of 41 research studies. Passive is a lecture format, Active is any amount of class time spent in active learning. The red-dashed line is the no difference between groups threshold. Active learning significantly lowers the achievement gap between majority and minoritized students.

Check out the full study from 2020: Theobald et al. (2020). Active learning narrows achievement gaps for underrepresented students in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math. PNAS, 117(12), 6476-6483.

COSM Community D&I Spotlight

Dr. Sue Ellen DeChenne-Peters is an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department on the Armstrong Campus. Initially inspired by Seymour and Hewitt’s 1997 book Talking About Leaving, which concludes that a main reason for attrition from science majors, especially for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and women is poor teaching. Dr. DeChenne-Peters focused her research on improving teaching in college biology classrooms so that all students would learn more, persist in, and have access to a fulfilling career in science and medicine. Improvement in college science instruction is a slow process as the 30 year follow-up Talking About Leaving Revisited indicates. However, as our student body diversifies, continued research and progress is needed. Her current research centers on teaching and student learning in laboratory classes. She is working with collaborators on publishing results from two NSF projects. Both projects examined student learning and attitudinal outcomes as well as faculty experiences during course-based research experience (CUREs). The first project investigated these outcomes from a single CURE in an introductory biology course at four different institutions, including two universities with a student population that was >50% BIPOC. The second project investigated these outcomes in 43 different CURE courses in chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology that were taught at research-intensive, undergraduate, and community colleges. In another study with Georgia Southern University students’, she found that CUREs reduce the student learning gap between the least prepared and best prepared students and BIPOC students learning gains are the same as White and Asian students.

Dr. DeChenne-Peters translates the science education research literature for use in her own classrooms to create an inclusive environment. She uses multiple strategies to involve her students in their own learning, create an inclusive environment, and reach our diverse student population. She has a passion for introductory biology, long considered a “gateway” course for many science majors. This is usually the first “hurdle” health and biologically-oriented science students must pass to continue in their chosen field. She also serves on the COSM Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She is on the Inclusive Teaching sub-Committee, where she has extended her passion for inclusive teaching to other faculty in COSM.

Dr. DeChenne-Peters BIOL 1107 students engaged in active learning

large classroom of students working together in groups

Try This! – Teaching Tip

A great way to build community and make students feel included is to use their names during class.

This Month's Theme: Inclusive Teaching

Why is Inclusive Teaching Important?

Inclusive teaching is the way to meet our students where they are when they join our classrooms. Students come to our classes with different preparation, motivation, and life experience that make each student a unique learner. Research shows that while all students benefit from inclusive teaching, BIPOC, first generation, and low-income students benefit the most. As many of these students are at the highest risk for dropping out of STEM and even college, it is important to include practices that help all students feel that this college, major, and course are where they belong.

How to Teach More Inclusively

There are several elements to inclusive teaching: 1) inclusive course climate, 2) explicit expectations, 3) course content, 4) accessibility, and 5) critical self-reflection.

  1. Inclusive Course Climate: Students do better when they feel that they “belong”. Name tents are a great example of creating an inclusive course climate. Allow students to self-identify. What name do they want to be called and what pronoun do they prefer? Include a diversity statement in your syllabus. Share your own interests and passions, include examples from your experiences that bring your passion for the subject to the students. This helps them connect to you as an instructor and see the relevance of the content. Help the students build this community by including a GroupMe, an open Folio discussion board, or some other social media app for them to connect to each other over the content.

  2. Explicit Expectations: Inclusive classrooms set explicit student expectations such as using grading rubrics for written assignments. Students then know what they need to do for their grade. Setting out your grading scheme, test/exam/homework dates, and providing scores to your students in a timely manner also lets them know what you expect and when.

  3. Course Content: In your course, consider your content and look explicitly for images and examples that take in diverse cultural backgrounds. When using examples, include scientific contributions made by female scientists and scientists of color. Write questions for homework or tests that include names or places that reflect a diversity of peoples. Project Biodiversify is a great place to find examples of biologists; reach out to your departmental D&I ambassadors for more!

  4. Accessibility: Make your course accessible for as many people as possible. Talk with the Student Accessibility Resource Center and the Center for Teaching Excellence for examples such as using Styles Headings in Word and Folio pages to guide all of your students. For more about accessibility see the February Newsletter.

  5. Critical reflection starts with determining your own identities, ideas about learning, and acknowledging their effect on your teaching. When you critically reflect, you try to unearth those assumptions, check them against the reality of today’s classroom. There are several lenses you can use to look at your teaching to help you in critical reflection: the student lens, your colleagues lens, expert instructor lens, literature lens, and your own experiences lens. Each of these can show you different views of your classroom and what is happening there.

Possible tools for reflection in each lens include:

The Value of Reflective Teaching: Be A Better Instructor

Harvard has published a great article on The Value of Reflective Teaching.

As you read through this list of suggestions, you may have been thinking, “I already do many of these”. That’s great, it turns out inclusive teaching is also good teaching. It’s good teaching for all students in your classroom. So pick one idea you haven’t tried and work toward incorporating it into your classroom.

A Better Instructor

Reflective Moment

Consider the video below - How much potential are we missing in our colleagues and students because of blind spots (aka implicit biases) about each person’s history?

It’s hard to accept our own biases sometimes, because we often want to believe that we are impartial and fair. What do you think your blind spots are? Want to know? Consider taking one of these short tests, then reflect on how your past experiences shaped your current interactions. We suggest Gender/Career as a test to start with!

Blind spots: Challenge assumptions

Upcoming Events

D&I Campus Connections and Opportunities

STEM Organizations

University Opportunities:

External Opportunities

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Something you'd like to see? We'd love to hear from you.

Brigette, Karelle, and Ryan lead the COSM Diversity & Inclusion webpage & newsletter team. They’d love to hear from you, and you can also contact any of your COSM D&I Ambassadors if you would like to contribute to or comment on the newsletter - or discuss other D&I issues. The webpage also includes information on becoming an ambassador yourself.

COSM Diversity & Inclusion Committee Co-Leaders

  • Arpita Saha - Chemistry & Biochemistry

  • Brandon Quillian - Chemistry & Biochemistry

  • Karelle Aiken - Chemistry & Biochemistry

  • Sabrina Hessinger - Mathematics


  • Amanda Klingel

  • Brian Koehler

  • Issac Taylor


  • Brigette Brinton

  • Geneva DeMars

  • Jennifer Brofft-Bailey

  • Johanne Lewis

  • Justin Montemarano

  • Marylou Machingura

  • Sara Gremillion

  • Sue Ellen Dechenne-Peters

Chemistry & Biochemistry

  • Arpita Saha

  • Brandon Quillian

  • Brent Feske

  • Debanjana Ghosh

  • Karelle Aiken

  • Ryan Groom

  • Shainaz Landge

Geology & Geography

  • Amy Potter

  • Rob Yarbrough

  • Kathlyn Smith


  • Duc Van Huynh

  • Eryn Stehr

  • Jim Brawner

  • Kyle Bradford

  • Sabrina Hessinger

  • Stephanie Wiggins

  • Tuyin An

Physics & Astronomy

  • Hua-Jian Jason Liu