Monday, April 22, 2024

Louisiana Tech faculty prepared to offer inclusive STEM teaching training

by BIZ Magazine

A pair of Louisiana Tech faculty with a passion for diversity and equality have been trained as facilitators for the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project and want to pass what they’ve learned on to other faculty, staff, and doctoral students.

Dr. Laura Bostick, associate research professor and STEM education accessibility specialist in Tech’s Science and Technology Education (STEM) Center , and Dr. Lisa Flanders-Dick, professional in residence at the University’s Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership, were part of the largest cohort to date as 22 institutional teams, including Tech, were added to the Community of Facilitators in training this summer.

The purpose of the project is to develop among educators a shared capacity for engaging in dialogues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as to create a local support network for facilitators. The primary sponsor for the project is the National Science Foundation, the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, and the Division of Undergraduate Education.

Now Bostick and Flanders-Dick want to share their training. The next six-week Inclusive STEM Teaching Project online course will be Oct. 3 – Nov. 22 and will include optional weekly learning community group meetings on Tech’s campus. All faculty, staff, and doctoral candidates are welcome; there is no cost. To learn more, complete this short Inclusive STEM Teaching Project form.

Both educators have a special passion for ensuring diversity and inclusivity. Bostick left her career of 17 years as a biomedical engineer at Johnson Space Center and entered the education field so she could help her daughter, who was born blind, navigate her way through the educational system and get the services she needed. Flanders-Dick’s first memory related to the importance of equity and inclusion was when she became friends with an elementary classmate who was deaf; she learned basic sign language, and her friend taught her the alphabet.

“Diversity not only directly impacts equity and inclusion, but also provides an unimaginable number of avenues to directly connect with people in the community and with students,” Flanders-Dick said. “Being open to learning from others concerning their diversity expands my knowledge and makes me a better person. I am committed to deepening my knowledge and sharing with others opportunities for equity, inclusion, and diversity.”

Through their shared interest in making STEM education more inclusive, the two pursued the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project and learned through their training that facilitators guide a learning community at a university to provide a “live” collaborative training component. The learning community allows time for discussion, reflection, and a deeper understanding of concept application. 

“One thing from the training that stuck out in my mind was the idea of a ‘brave space,’” Bostick said. “Most of us are familiar with the term ‘safe space,’ which Merriam-Webster defines as ‘a place (such as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.’ The Inclusive STEM Teaching Project uses the term ‘brave space’ in reference to the course and learning communities, because the hope is that we’ll push ourselves to face and discuss things that might feel uncomfortable at first, while still being respectful of fellow learners.”

“During the training, I appreciated the amount of active learning and collaboration being modeled throughout to encourage the incorporation of these strategies in our own learning community,” Flanders-Dick said. “I also learned various techniques for facilitating tough conversations.”

The program is designed to help STEM faculty cultivate inclusive learning environments for all their students and to develop themselves as reflective, inclusive practitioners.

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