Individual-Centred Approaches to Accessibility in STEM Education


T. Davey1, J.V. Salazar L.2, R. Davenport3

1. Department of Finemechanics, School of Engineering, Tohoku University, Sendai 980-8579, Japan
2. Department of Robotics, School of Engineering, Tohoku University, Sendai 980-8579, Japan
3. Max Born Institute, 12489 Berlin, Germany

Published in Education Sciences, 11 (2021) 652

DOI: 10.1109/LRA.2021.3068691

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Equitable access to high-quality higher education is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 4, 5, and 10, which indicate that it is crucial for a future sustainable society. Globalisation and reductions in systemic barriers to university admission are creating increasingly diverse higher education classrooms, but traditional education methods may unfairly disadvantage some groups of students. Creating equity in access to high-quality education requires teaching approaches that are considerate of each student’s individual sociocultural context as it affects their educational attainment. Building on discipline-based education research (DBER) principles in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, a modified holistic approach is proposed that primarily centres on students and tailors the teaching methods to the needs of the individuals and the dynamic of the whole class. This work demonstrates that educational attainment and student confidence was improved by applying an individual-centred teaching approach in a highly diverse undergraduate engineering classroom. Trials of this approach in a pilot classroom showed clear and consistent improvement over standard active learning approaches. Best practice guidelines for individual-centred teaching in STEM classrooms are provided. Further work is needed to examine the efficacy of this approach in a generalised setting, but the positive outcomes for student attainment are in line with existing research in the literature. The best practice guidelines presented herein may serve as a starting point for other educators to become more aware of the sociocultural needs of their individual students and classrooms, which may result in a move towards equity in STEM higher education.