August 20, 2021

Centering identity for inclusive teaching [AAAS-IUSE]

Posted by Laura Guertin

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has teamed up with the National Science Foundation Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program (NSF-IUSE) for the multi-year AAAS-IUSE initiative. The major goals of this initiative are to (a) synthesize and disseminate research and knowledge about STEM teaching and learning and (b) increase the use of effective evidence-based undergraduate curricula and instructional strategies that will lead to a diverse STEM workforce and a STEM-literate public.

In Summer 2021, the program hosted the AAAS-IUSE Summer Labs themed on Catalyzing Inclusive, Transformative Undergraduate STEM Education. This series of virtual events, along with supporting online resources, challenged faculty to “seize this moment to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion to improve undergraduate STEM education.” The website has recordings of the webinars, such as the one I attended on Centering Identity: The Design of An Inclusive Teaching Course for STEM Faculty (web page from event date June 4, 2021). The workshop description has part of the focus and justification for why webinars/workshops on this topic are needed:

Becoming an inclusive STEM educator requires a deep understanding of the challenges learners face and how instructors can actively support them. In addition to broadly examining both the historical and contemporary contexts of oppressive systems, like educational systems, it is equally important to engage in deep reflection upon one’s own identity and socialization process and to build empathy by enhancing one’s connection, awareness, and sensitivity to student experiences. 

I am including the webinar here in this blog post, as it has such great value and important information to reflect upon, and then to take action with. The webinar was presented by Dr. Tazin Daniels (Univ. Michigan), Dr. Bennett Goldberg (Northwestern Univ.), and Dr. Veronica Womack (Northwestern Univ.).

The presentation slides are linked online and available to download. There are three slides/parts of the presentation that really stood out to me (in addition to the impact of the activities we engaged in during the session).

Before diving into addressing identity in the classroom, Part I of the presentation started with an overview of social identity. I found this bulleted list and the graphic (which can be found on Rick Ladd’s blog post, Do We Fully Understand Diversity?) very helpful for framing the conversation and discussion. (click for a larger version of the graphic portraying different dimensions in which we find diversity)

Slide that defines social identity

The second slide was an introduction to the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project, with the following project goals. To learn more about this program that “is designed to advance the awareness, self-efficacy, and ability of STEM faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and staff to cultivate inclusive learning environments for all their students and to develop themselves as reflective, inclusive practitioners,” visit the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project website.

Goals of Inclusive STEM Teaching Project

Even if you are unable to sign up for and attend the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project course, there are plenty of resources and activities described in the recorded webinar, and in a recent publication from Daniels and Schoem (2020), Preparing Inclusive Educators Through Transformative Learning ( This table is from the paper and was part of the presentation.

Table 8.1 from Preparing Inclusive Educators through Transformative Learning


And if I haven’t convinced you yet to view the webinar and to reflect upon your own approach to centering identities through pedagogical approaches, let me share one of the activities we completed in small groups in Zoom as a “local learning community.” The activity is called Story of my Name, and we were given the following prompt for our Zoom breakout room: share a one-minute story about your name (how you were named, what your name means, what it is like to have your name). Then, we discussed the benefits of centering identity in building community within our groups, and how might we use this activity in our own teaching. In my breakout room, none of us had ever recalled being specifically questioned on our names and the origin – all of the stories were reflective, personal, and for one participant – emotional.

And this was just one activity completed by faculty in a group. Imagine the impact this could have on your students (and how you might need to embed the activity and process the outcome). I encourage everyone to consider centering identity in their STEM courses, research groups, projects, and more.