Bringing Underrepresented Populations into the Sciences: What Difference Does Difference Make?

This resource is a presentation hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), given by Dr. Shirley M. Malcolm, addressing the underrepresentation of minorities in the sciences and the need for a more scientifically and technologically literate population. As a renowned scientist and Dean of Education, Dr. Malcolm reflects upon her own experiences and builds upon key career goal preparation and supporting processes needed to build capacity and inspiration for the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers. There is a need to build the talent pool from diversity. Her key message emphasizes how the power of diversity makes for better science, and that the 21st century requires a different set of skills and tools than what is presently provided to teachers and students.

In her presentation, Dr. Malcolm makes compelling points about diversity of all kinds, and addresses the underrepresentation of women in positions of power in the biomedical fields and other STEM fields. Her speech addresses the need for diversity in higher education faculty, and the need for relevant experiences and mentoring for women in minority groups, in order to have higher retention of diverse faculty, including scientists. Also emphasized are needs for effective capacity building in the educational system, rethinking of hiring and retention policies, and working within an environment of planning before pursuing future reforms in education, as well as for high leverages, focused goals, community involvement, maximizing the use of technology, and focus on collaboration across the educational system.

Content Comments 

This resource is a 90-minute presentation about science education and science representation by diversity in the disciplines. Dr. Malcolm highlights how diversity brings different perspectives and ways of thinking to problem solving, and how the opportunity to interact with cultural diversity allows participants to apply it in their lives. The translational aspects of learning about diversity require a diverse context in education, practice, and research. When society considers issues of health or education, or other important societal issues, there is a need to have a variety of different approaches for effective learning and leading. Dr. Malcolm gives a historical view and addresses higher-education needs. She emphasizes the system dynamics in K–12 from multiple perspectives, from resources and diversity to innovative opportunities to make use of technology to enhance science education.

Dr. Malcolm advocates for a different kind of structure that focuses on learning across all levels of the educational system, and for organization of schools in ways that allow for communities of practice with support and autonomy.