2019 Keynote

Envisioning more equitable Higher Education

Sehoya Cotner, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

In higher education—and especially the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines--women, first-generation college students, and students belonging to certain racial or ethnic groups enter exhibit greater attrition than do their male peers, a gap that continues throughout the professions. Some explanations for this phenomenon relate to student preparation or academic abilities, which is collectively known as the student deficit model. My colleagues and I have proposed the course deficit model, whereby instructional decisions exacerbate or minimize gaps in performance, participation, and retention. I will offer evidence--from my own work and that of others--in support of the course deficit model, in my discussion. Key to this discussion are the take-home messages that emerge for instructors; critically, many of them are easy to implement! Further, in this interactive discussion, we will identify and use several in-class assessment techniques.

Image: Sehoya CotnerSehoya Cotner earned her PhD in Conservation Biology, but has turned her research focus to undergraduate biology education. She is particularly interested in evidenced-based teaching, especially as it relates to reducing or removing barriers to equity in STEM fields. Sehoya is currently focusing much of her work on performance and retention gaps that arise in introductory-level courses. Sehoya is PI of several NSF-funded initiatives emphasizing inclusive teaching, training teaching assistants to facilitate inquiry, and course-based research experiences. She has most recently published on the effect of class size on gender-biased performance gaps, participation gaps in biology and chemistry courses, the role of high-stakes tests in observed performance gaps (between men and women, and between first-generation college students and their continuing-generation counterparts), and how gender ratios impact in-class group dynamics. Current work highlights the role of hidden identities in active-learning settings. Sehoya has proposed, and continues to explore, the “Course Deficit Model,” whereby instructional choices can either increase or lower barriers to equity.

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