“California Challenges in STEM Energy Education” seeks to reduce large educational equity gaps in STEM fields that are experienced by Hispanic and other underrepresented minority (URM) students who live in California’s Central Valley. The California State University at Bakersfield (CSU Bakersfield), the University of California at Merced (UC Merced), and Bakersfield College, three academic institutions that are located in the valley and serve these students, will participate in this proof-of-concept project.
Equity gaps in Central Valley STEM education exist despite strong demand for STEM graduates in the local economy, which is largely based upon the energy and agricultural industries. The hypothesis underlying the project is that URM students have a limited perspective of their possible contributions to improving technology due to social issues, such as knowing no one in their community who is a scientist or engineer. Furthermore, when URM students enter STEM fields, they fail to see the connection between their studies and real-world problems because gateway courses in current curricula fail to make that connection explicit.
This project will introduce the concepts behind practical technical problems at the intersection of energy, water, and agriculture—problems relevant to the Central Valley—into gateway STEM courses. This will be accomplished via a novel combination of two pedagogies, flipped classroom and Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), which we call Flipped Classroom-Enhanced-Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (FC-E-POGIL). The flipped classroom format involves pre-class student reading assignments and the enhanced POGIL format involves a highly structured in-class format, including assigned student roles and after class homework assignments.
Implementation of these pedagogies will vary from academic institution to academic institution and from course to course. However, in all cases, the goal will be to increase student engagement so that URM STEM students will persist in their studies and thereby close the current large equity gaps. Suitable metrics will be collected during the project, and a final report that includes curricula will be produced and made available online for future scaling.