Advancing an Adaptive Equity-Oriented Pedagogy for STEM in Higher Education

A Peacemaking Project by Andrew P.

What is the injustice we are solving?

Challenge and Need The United States faces challenges competing in the global economy due to a lack of diverse STEM graduates (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). Simultaneously, universities experience difficulties recruiting and retaining STEM students, especially underrepresented minorities (URM). According to Seymour and Hewitt (1997), 90% of students leaving STEM cited poor teaching as one of their primary concerns. The Higher Education Research Institute found that URM students who aspire to major in STEM as a freshmen have a substantially lower likelihood of completing such a degree within five years than their white and Asian American peers (Hurtado, Eagan, & Chang, 2010). First-year STEM majors are also more likely to withdraw from college than their non-STEM counterparts and are more likely to change fields of study before graduating. Research Project Topic Recognizing that faculty teaching can have a direct impact on student engagement and learning in STEM courses (Seymour & Hewitt, 1997), I examine how an adaptive equity-oriented pedagogy (AEP) impacts student achievement, psychosocial outcomes, and retention for all students, especially underrepresented minority (URM) students (Phuong et al., 2017). AEP instructors use ungraded, weekly formative assessments to adjust their teaching to address diverse students’ learning needs (i.e., their strengths, interests, and areas for growth). Preliminary results suggest that, compared to control conditions, UCB students learning through AEP scored, on average, 12% higher on the final and outperformed control groups by a full letter grade in the course (Phuong et al., 2017). Students experiencing AEP demonstrated greater improvements in positive psychosocial outcomes (e.g., motivation, reduced stereotype threat, growth mindset, self-efficacy, inclusion). These effects endured when controlling for GPA and intersectional identities (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation, income, disability, immigration status). Based on the successes of these studies, further graduate research will allow me to expand randomized control trials (RCTs) with larger samples that examine student outcomes in different sections of STEM courses. This research will contribute a methodology for instructors to evaluate and refine equity-oriented curricula to improve URM students’ success, which directly addresses the U.S Department of Education’s priority of improving STEM teaching and completion rates for URM in universities. With stakeholders, I aim to develop a national model for equity-oriented STEM pedagogy based on the case of UC Berkeley as a large, diverse public university. We will use evidence from rigorous RCTs to assist with faculty member buy-in, a long-standing barrier to education reform. We seek to advance a pedagogy that attracts, supports, and enables URM students to thrive and grow as STEM scholars and professionals. References Hurtado, S., Eagan, K., & Chang, M. (2010). Degrees of success: Bachelor’s degree completion rates among initial STEM majors. Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, January. Phuong, A. E., Nguyen, J. & Marie, D. (2017b). Evaluating an adaptive equity-oriented pedagogy: A study of its impacts in higher education. The Journal of Effective Teaching. 17(2), 5-44. Seymour, E., & Hewitt, N. (1997). Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences. Westview Press. United States Department of Education. (2017). Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: Education for Global Leadership. U.S Department of Education. Retrieved from


RaulPF C.
26 December 2017 10:04

Thanks for sharing your project, Andrew! Could you share a bit more about areas where you are hoping to receive some support and how you envision young people playing a leadership role in this project?

Fish S.
31 December 2017 16:53

Hi Andrew -- love your research on this important topic. Sounds like you've done a lot of work understanding the roots -- and the effects -- of inequities within STEM fields. There are several young people working on STEM projects here, and I think this will be useful to them.

Do you plan to turn your research into an action project that can create change in higher education? If that's what you want to do -- we can help!!

Andrew P.
27 February 2018 22:18


Fish S.
1 March 2018 9:58

Awesome! The next step is to go to your dashboard and create a "compassionate insight" -- a statement about the problem and what you'll do to solve it. Can we help with that at all?

Adrian B.
29 March 2018 20:18

Hi Andrew,

Just checking in about your project and the next steps. I wanted to make sure you are aware of the upcoming Mini-Grant Deadline - there is still time to remain eligible to attend a Peace First Challenge Accelerator if you complete your Compassionate Insight, Project Plan, and Mini-Grant application by March 31st.

We're excited about your work, and would love to be able to support it with a mini-grant of up to $250.

These tools can help you craft your insight, plan, and budget for your mini-grant:

Through your dashboard you can submit your "compassionate insight," record your plan in "Make a plan" and then "Apply for a mini-grant" for the materials you need.

Let me know how I can help!


Liza K.
21 April 2018 8:44

Goals and objectives: Development of personality in the period of early youth, its spiritual and moral, and legal culture, the ability to personal self-determination and self-realization; interest in the study of social and humanitarian disciplines.

Adrian B.
23 April 2018 9:29

Hi Liza! Did you mean to leave this comment here, or was it about your own project?