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GSE Colloquium Series: Shima Salehi, Ph.D.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Demographic Performance Gaps in Introductory STEM Courses and Their Underlying Mechanisms

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Shima Salehi, Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University

How can we create inclusive undergraduate STEM learning environments, which allow diverse populations of students to thrive? Previous research has shown that the first two years of undergraduate education is critical in pursuing STEM fields and retention in general. In particular, performance in introductory STEM courses is a key indicator of pursuing STEM fields. In this talk, I will present two research studies exploring the demographic performance gaps in introductory STEM courses across four different universities and various STEM introductory courses. I will also examine possible mechanisms behind these gaps. The analysis shows that this underperformance is dominated by the incoming preparation of the students, as opposed to other possible factors such as social psychological factors. I will conclude with some suggestions as to how these findings might be used to guide educators to design more effective interventions to support the success of students from underrepresented demographic groups in their introductory STEM courses at Stanford and elsewhere.

Shima Salehi is a postdoctoral fellow of science and engineering education at the Physics department of Stanford University. Her work focuses on how to use different instructional practices to teach science and engineering more effectively and inclusively. Her recent works focus on what are the underlying mechanisms for demographic performance gaps in STEM college education. Salehi holds a PhD in Learning Sciences and a PhD minor in Psychology from Stanford University, and received a B.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology, Iran. She is the founder of KhanAcademyFarsi, a non-profit educational organization which has provided service to more than 4 million Farsi-speaking students.

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