Posted on March 8, 2022

Inclusive Stem Classes Help Teens See They Belong

Matt Shipman, Futurity, March 3, 2022

Making classrooms feel inclusive can help promote STEM education and make students feel capable of working on STEM subjects outside of the classroom, a new study shows.

“We found that kids who feel their high school STEM classrooms are inclusive are more likely to feel like they belong,” says first author Kelly Lynn Mulvey, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University.


Inclusivity, in this context, refers to the extent to which students feel a classroom is welcoming to different genders and ethnic groups.

For the study, researchers conducted in-depth surveys of 523 students from five high schools: 34.2% of study participants identified as white/European-American; 33.4% as Black/African-American; 10.5% as Latino/Latina/Latine; 13.4% as biracial or other; and 8.5% of participants chose not to report their race/ethnicity.

Further, 49.4% of study participants identified as female; 36.3% as male; 2.1% non-binary; 1.1% as unsure; and 11.1% chose not to report their gender identity.

In the survey, researchers asked students questions aimed at assessing how inclusive they felt their STEM classrooms were; the extent to which STEM teachers treated them unfairly; and the extent to which they felt like they personally belonged in their STEM classes.


“Most students felt their classrooms were inclusive, and that teachers treated them fairly,” Mulvey says. “However, the further students had progressed through high school, the less likely they were to view their STEM classrooms as inclusive, and the more likely they were to perceive unfair treatment from their teachers. That was true regardless of race and gender.”


“In practical terms, this study highlights the fact that feeling like you belong matters. And the way to promote belonging is to make kids feel like their classrooms are inclusive. For example, teachers can take steps to make sure all students feel involved and discuss scientists from backgrounds that reflect the backgrounds of the students.