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Tuesday, March 2 • 12:00pm - 12:15pm
Talk Session 3: The impact of faculty’s epistemological beliefs on STEM instruction at HSIs

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The growing diversity of student populations in postsecondary education has led to an increasing need for culturally relevant pedagogy. Researchers have found evidence that beliefs about the nature of knowledge predict pedagogical practices (e.g., Martínez-Sierra et al., 2020; Raymond, 1997). If STEM practitioners believe that their disciplines are culture-free, they may not enact culturally relevant pedagogies in their courses. We agree with Ladson-Billings (1997) that “[Culture] informs all human thought and activity and cannot be suspended as human beings interact with particular subject matters or domains of learning” (p. 700). The sample for this study includes 22 faculty from mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology departments at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). We seek to understand whether or how epistemological beliefs about the nature of their discipline, combined with their institutional context of teaching at an HSI, have impacted their instruction.

We found that instructors can express and even laud their disciplines’ separation from culture, while simultaneously expressing openness to using culturally relevant pedagogy. Though never asked directly, six instructors made statements reflecting a “culture-free” belief about knowledge in their discipline such as,“To me, mathematics has no color.” All six of those instructors also described trying to interact with their students in a culturally responsive way. Instructors’ ability to hold these two contradictory views may indicate that professional development does not have to change instructor’s epistemological beliefs about their discipline, but rather just needs to convince them of the value of using culturally relevant pedagogies.

avatar for Mollee Shultz

Mollee Shultz

Postdoc, Texas State University
I'm a mathematics education researcher interested in instructor decision-making and inquiry-oriented instruction. I'm also a new mother of 2, so happy to chat about work-life balance (or lack thereof) in academia.

Tuesday March 2, 2021 12:00pm - 12:15pm CST