A Comprehensive Model for Undergraduate Science Education Reform to Better Serve the Underserved

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Failure to succeed in introductory science classes is a barrier to diversification of the scientific workforce. In the early 1990s, it was found that Grinnell College students —particularly those of color, women, and first-generation college students⎯were entering Grinnell College with an avowed interest in pursuing degrees in the sciences but abandoning their academic goals when they failed to do well in introductory science courses. To address this problem, a program called the Grinnell Science Project was developed to help students overcome three barriers to success in the sciences. We developed this list of barriers from data analysis of performance and issues experienced by students as: (1) unsuccessful acclimation to college life; (2) ineffectiveness of traditional pedagogy; and (3) a lack of mentoring and role models. Results of this project reveal improved grades for domestic students of color, as well as comparable rates of science major completion and pursuit of graduate study for all groups of students. The culture of the Science Division has changed to reflect, both in architecture and in actions, a commitment to establishing a supportive and inclusive community to promote excellent science. The sciences have undergone major curricular reform, including revision of introductory courses throughout the sciences to provide more active and engaged pedagogies and provide increased opportunities for course-embedded and dedicated research experiences.