Scientist Spotlight

The Scientist Spotlights Initiative:

Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Science through Development, Assessment, and Dissemination of Curriculum Supplements that Bring Science Role Models to Students

Overview and Specific Aims

San Francisco State University (SFSU) and Foothill Community College – in strong collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), the California Academy of Sciences, Story Collider, and Science Friday – propose The Scientist Spotlights Initiative: Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Science through Development, Assessment, and Dissemination of Curriculum Supplements that Bring Rare Science Role Models to Students. Interest in science begins to wane in the middle school years, and a lack of access to diverse role models in science appears to be key. Research into science identity, science belonging, stereotype threat, and possible selves suggests a lack of diverse representations of scientists could impede traditionally under-represented students from persisting and succeeding in science from pre-college onward. However, bringing diverse scientists directly to classrooms is simply not possible for many teachers and not feasible as a regular part of the science curriculum. And few evidence-based curricular materials currently exist that support teachers in regularly and systematically connecting diverse role models and science careers to students and the content they teach. Yet, science instructors at all levels – middle school, high school, community college, and university – are enthusiastic about promoting inclusion in science, bringing diverse role models to classrooms, and connecting these real scientists to students’ learning experiences.

In previous efforts, we have evaluated a series of metacognitive homework assignments – Scientist Spotlights – that featured counter-stereotypical examples of scientists in an introductory biology class at a diverse community college. Scientist Spotlightsadditionally served as tools to engage students in content, as scientists were selected to match topics covered each week. Research on the impact of Scientist Spotlight interventions revealed that these simple curriculum supplements shifted students’ ideas towards counter-stereotypical descriptions of scientists and enhanced their ability to personally relate to scientists. Analyses further uncovered correlations between these shifts, interest in science, and course grades, with additional longitudinal study data suggesting these shifts were maintained for at least six months. As Scientist Spotlights require very little class time, complement existing curricula, and are supported by prior education research, they represent a promising tool for enhancing science identity, shifting stereotypes, and connecting content to issues of equity and diversity in a broad range of STEM classrooms, from middle school through university. Through the Scientist Spotlights Initiative, we propose to accomplish the following specific aims:

Aim 1: Develop a Scientist Spotlights Initiative Collection – an on-line, accessible, and NGSS-aligned database of education research-based curriculum supplements to support integration of diverse science role models in middle school, high school, and community college classrooms

Aim 2: Assess the impact of Scientist Spotlight interventions on students’ stereotypes of scientists and science identity through collaborations among middle school, high school, and community college teachers, college and university students, and SEPAL postdoctoral scholars

Aim 3: Disseminate developed Scientist Spotlight interventions and resulting assessment evidence nationally, through conferences, publications, and museum and media partners

Over 5 years, we anticipate developing, piloting, and assessing ~200 unique Scientist Spotlight curriculum supplements that would allow science instructors from middle schools, high schools and community colleges to integrate diversity explicitly into their courses, engaging ~40 non-traditional college-level students/year and ~12 science teachers/year in developing and piloting Scientist Spotlights, establishing service-learning courses to institutionalize these efforts, and continuing our record of publishing research on such efforts with SEPAL postdoctoral scholars. 

To accomplish the specific aims listed above, Scientist Spotlights Initiative will develop the program elements summarized in the overview graphic and table below. 

Specific AimsProgram Design Elements
Aim 1: Develop a Scientist Spotlights Initiative Collection – an on-line, accessible, and NGSS-aligned database of education research-based curriculum supplements to support integration of diverse science role models in middle school, high school, and community college classrooms Develop ~200 Scientist Spotlights aligned with NGSS life science Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs)• Establish multiple service-learning courses to engage diverse groups of college- and university-level students in developing Scientist Spotlights Partner with science teachers to produce middle school, high school, and community college versions of each Scientist Spotlight developed
Aim 2: Assess the impact of Scientist Spotlight interventions on students’ stereotypes of scientists and science identity through collaborations among middle school, high school, and community college teachers, college and university students, and SEPAL postdoctoral scholars• Implement weekly Scientist Spotlight interventions with science teacher partners in comparison to a non-scientist-focused assignment• Assess students’ science identity and interest, before and after Scientist Spotlights and comparison assignments• Monitor shifts in students’ scientist stereotypes about what types of people do science
Aim 3: Disseminate developed Scientist Spotlight interventions and resulting assessment evidence nationally, through conferences, publications, and museum and media partners• Build and maintain the Scientist Spotlights Collectionwebsite, which will be available nationwide and continue to expand after the grant period• Disseminate the Scientist Spotlights Collection to science teachers with California Academy of Science, SF Bay Area schools, and media partners• Publish findings about impacts of the Scientist Spotlights Initiative in education research journals

Background and Significance

Whether or not we consciously register the impacts of this messaging, we are regularly bombarded with information regarding the types of people that work in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). From television shows and movies to websites, news articles, and advertisements, the media recurrently conveys images of who does science; more often than not, showcasing a relatively narrow view of science and scientists. Setting the media aside, perhaps we need look no further than our own classrooms to understand the ways scientists are portrayed. Many students are likely to get their earliest and most direct experiences with “real” scientists during their middle and high school STEM courses – courses taught by a mostly White teacher population and mostly male high school teacher population nationwide. Our textbooks, in the very rare instances that they connect content to discussions of specific scientists, can tend to focus the most attention on individuals matching common scientist stereotypes (e.g., Darwin and Mendel in Reece et al., 2014). Even our classrooms themselves may, through their physical layouts and decorations, convey messages regarding who can participate in STEM (Cheryan et al., 2009). We might wonder, then; what are the impacts of these recurrent messages on students enrolled in STEM classes, particularly in the increasingly diverse classroom environments of the United States? And what, if anything, might teachers do in response to this messaging?

Scientist Stereotypes Impact Persistence and Success in STEM by Influencing Science Identity, Sense of Belonging, & Stereotype Threat

The messages we convey to students, either intentionally or unintentionally, regarding who does science can influence students’ stereotypes of scientists. Numerous lines of evidence point to the importance of these stereotypes in shaping students’ sense of belonging in STEM, with implications for persistence and success in STEM programs. For example, stereotypical representations of scientists in the media (Tanner, 2009; Cheryan et al., 2013; DeWitt et al., 2013; Martin, 2015) and in classroom decorations (Cheryan et al., 2009) have the potential to reduce interest in STEM fields among women and people of color. On the other hand, a variety of studies suggest students are more likely to pursue majors and careers in STEM if they agree with certain “positive” stereotypes of scientists (Beardslee and O’Dowd, 1961; Wyer, 2003; Schneider, 2010). Our own work further suggests that holding counter-stereotypical images of scientists might be an important factor in predicting success in science classes (Schinske et al., 2015). 

These findings illustrate the importance of science identity, a sense of belonging, and stereotype threat in determining persistence and success in STEM classes. Identity refers to the extent to which we view ourselves as a particular “kind of person” (Gee, 2000), with science identity more specifically referring to whether we see ourselves as scientists. If students hold stereotypes that portray scientists as a different “kind of person” than themselves, those students might conclude they are not “science people.” This mismatch between a student’s personal sense of identity and a science identity can hamper persistence in STEM (Seymour and Hewitt, 1997; Brickhouse et al., 2000). Harboring views of scientists that differ from students’ perceptions of themselves could also cause students to feel as though they do not belong in science. The extent to which students feel a sense of belonging similarly correlates with levels of achievement and motivation in school settings (Goodenow, 1993; Roeser et al., 1996).

Feeling that one differs from stereotypical descriptions of people in a particular field of study can additionally hinder achievement in that field due to stereotype threat. Under stereotype threat, students harbor an often-subconscious fear of confirming a negative stereotype about their group (Steele, 1997). For example, students of color, women, and first-generation college students might fear confirming a stereotype that their groups are not good at science due to a perception that scientists are White men from privileged, highly educated backgrounds. This threat can undermine engagement and performance, even among students that are otherwise well qualified academically (Steele, 1997). Even subtle cues involving a lack of women or people of color visually represented in an academic environment or on a flyer can trigger dramatic reductions in interest and performance due to stereotype threat (Inzlicht and Ben-Zeev, 2000; Purdie-Vaughns et al., 2008). More specific to science contexts, stereotype threat has been described as a significant factor in predicting interest, persistence, and success in STEM majors, especially for women and students of color (Hill et al., 2010, Ch. 3; Beasley et al, 2012). Interventions that remove the conditions that trigger stereotype threat can reduce or even entirely eliminate achievement gaps between women and men or between students of color and White students in test scores and course grades (e.g., Steele and Aronson, 1995; Good et al., 2003; Cohen et al., 2006). 

What can teachers do in STEM classes to broaden the image of the scientist? 

Given the evidence above suggesting that stereotypes of scientists can impact persistence and success in STEM, efforts to feature counter-stereotypical images of scientists have the potential to narrow equity gaps and broaden participation in STEM. Stereotypes of scientists are malleable (Cheryan et al., 2015), and previous work suggests that providing counter-stereotypical messaging could enhance interest and success in STEM among underserved populations of students (McIntyre et al., 2004; Steinke et al., 2009; Cheryan et al., 2013).

One common strategy for introducing counter-stereotypical images of scientists to students is to increase the prevalence and visibility of diverse STEM “role models” – individuals that students may choose to emulate. Marx and Roman (2002) describe how role models are chosen through “selective, social comparison whereby certain attributes are copied and others are excluded.” Because comparisons of social similarity may involve the visible personal characteristics of potential role models, many studies have focused on the potential benefits of gender or race/ethnic matched role models. For example, the presence of female role models has served to mitigate stereotype threat and boost math performance among female students (Marx and Roman, 2002; Marx and Ko, 2012). In terms of race/ethnicity, both White and non-White students tend to select race/ethnic-matched career role models (Karunanayake and Nauta, 2004), and having a race/ethnic-matched instructor role model has been shown to correlate with student success (Dee, 2004; Fairlie et al., 2011).

While these results would suggest placing a priority on seeking out gender/race/ethnic matched role models for STEM students, other studies have failed to find distinct benefits of role models that match students’ own races/ethnicities and genders (Ehrenberg et al., 1995; Maylor, 2009; Phelan, 2010). Perhaps explaining these discrepancies, Marx and Roman (2002) point out that the attributes important to seek in a role model will ultimately be those attributes of importance to the individual choosing the role model (e.g., the attributes considered important by students). Since social identities are informed by many different factors, and since individuals have multiple identities that resonate in different contexts (Gee, 2000), it might be difficult to predict which role model attributes will be most important in encouraging students to form a science identity. Buck et al. (2008) provide guidance in this area in finding that students needed to identify someone “who cared about them and shared common interest/experiences” for role models to be effective. This work implies that teachers interested in enhancing students’ science identity and sense of belonging in STEM should, in addition to identifying diverse role models in terms of gender/race/ethnicity, place a priority on featuring individuals with whom students might personally relate, based on interests. 

Moving from Identifying Role Models towards Showcasing Possible Selves

The concept of “possible selves” might represent an additional, more precise way to think of counter-stereotypical examples than does the concept of “role modeling.” Possible selves refer to everything that each of us “is tempted to call by the name of me” (James, 1890/2005) or the set of “individually significant hopes, fears, and fantasies” that define oneself (Markus and Nurius, 1986). Individuals can reflect upon their own possible selves, and these possible selves are understood to influence motivation and future behavior (Markus and Nurius, 1986). Students weigh their possible selves in constructing school identities and these interactions between possible selves and academic identities mediate the potency of stereotype threat (Steele, 1997; Oyserman et al., 2006). Possible selves more specifically play an important role in the development of a science identity (Hunter, 2010) and students’ “possible science selves” might help explain career choices in STEM (Steinke et al., 2009; Mills, 2014). Taken together, this implies students’ science identities and resistance to stereotype threat might be enhanced if they see their own possible selves reflected in STEM. This highlights a subtle, but important difference between the concepts of role models and possible selves. Compared to featuring scientist role models that represent people students are expected to become more like, seeing one’s possible selves in a scientist would involve seeing someone in science you already are like. For example, most students are already focused on their family, so that hearing from a scientist who explicitly values family could be beneficial. The Scientist Spotlights Initiative aims build on these findings to introduce under-represented students to a wide array of scientist role models, through which students might develop a science possible self, while at the same time linking these scientists to NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas in life science. 

Prior Results and Preliminary Studies

The proposed Scientist Spotlights Initiative builds on prior work by both PI Tanner and PI Schinske. Below, we briefly describe the goals and outcomes of the two most relevant efforts: 1) PI Tanner’s 2007-11 NIH SEPA-funded Spectrum Project: Building Pathways to Biomedical Research Careers for Girls and Women of Color, and 2) PI Schinske’s Scientist Spotlights Shift Community College Students’ Scientist Stereotypes and Science Identity.

NIH SEPA Spectrum Project (2007-14)

Over 7 years, PI Tanner pioneered the Spectrum Project: Building Pathways to Biomedical Research Careers for Girls and Women of Color. This NIH SEPA-funded Spectrum effort provided access, opportunity, role models, and professional development, bringing women of color biomedical scientists directly into schools to partner with teachers, students, and families. Over 450 middle and high school girls, over 80% of whom were girls of color, had unprecedented access to women of color faculty and students in the biomedical sciences and engaged in >6,000 hours of academic enrichment in science, shared their learning with hundreds of family members, and experienced multiple visits to research laboratories of women of color at SFSU. Dissemination efforts included collaboration with the Expanding Your Horizons Network to bring strategies for supporting women of color in science to more than 40 educational leaders from across the country, as well as production of multiple educational videos still downloaded regularly from PI Tanner’s website. Below we highlight three outcomes of Spectrum.

NIH Spectrum Project engaged more than 450 girls, primarily girls of color, in >6,000 hours of after-school academic enrichment in biomedical science.

Overall, the Spectrum effort engaged a large and diverse group of middle and high school girls, undergraduate and graduate students, K-12 teachers, and faculty in encouraging women of color in the biomedical sciences. Beginning with just 3 Spectrumsites in Year 1, the Spectrum effort steadily grew to 7 Spectrum sites in the final year, with a total of 20 yearlong Spectrum Science Clubs offered in public school settings across San Francisco over four years. In the four full implementation years of the effort, more than 456 girls of color were regular participants in Spectrum after-school science clubs. Spectrum girls were 45% Latina, 13% African American, 22% Asian, 7% White, and 11% Unknown. As such, Spectrum Science Clubs reached girls of color, with >80% of club attendees being non-White and 58% being under-represented minorities in the sciences. (**number does not sum due to repeat participation;   * represents some repeat participation, as well)

Spectrum increased girls of color’s access to women of color scientists.

Comparisons of pre- and post-assessment evidence from girls participating in Spectrum Science Clubs showed that there were significant increases in the proportion of girls who agree with the statements: 1) I have heard a woman scientist talk about her work, 2) I have heard a woman scientist talk about why she likes science, 3) I have heard a woman scientist talk about how she became a scientist, and 4) I have met a woman scientist like me. In particular, the almost doubling of the number of girls agreeing with these last two statements is evidence of the impact of the project on the girls of color participating. 

Spectrum created over a dozen science education resource videos for girls and women of color in biomedical science.

To support dissemination, Spectrum created two educational video resources to highlight the experiences of girls and women of color in biomedical science, which are still available and in use today.

Spectrum Women of Color Faculty Video-biographies

Six video-biographies of biomedical scientists who are women of color were produced, used to recruit girls to join Spectrum Science Clubs, and to provide girls of color nationally access to rare role models. Additionally, in partnership with Girls Inc., Level Playing Field Institute, National Girls Collaborative, Mytonomy, National Expanding Your Horizons, and the Girl Scouts, these video-biographies have been distributed and >10,000 Spectrum postcards (see graphic) were used to promote awareness of this resource for supporting girls and women of color in biomedical science.

From Us to Us: Advice on Careers in Biomedical Sciences for Girls & Women of Color,

Developed in response to the 13 most often asked questions by the over 400 Spectrum girls during field trip visits SFSU women of color faculty laboratories, these 13 videos compile advice from interviews with over a dozen near peer mentors – undergraduate and graduate student women of color – on these questions. Click here to view them.

Scientist Spotlights Shift Community College Students’ Scientist Stereotypes and Science Identity

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Given the evidence that counter-stereotypical perceptions of scientists are important in diverse science classrooms (Schinske, 2015) and that viewing one’s possible selves in science might enhance science identity (Hunter, 2010; Mills, 2014) and mitigate stereotype threat (Oyserman, 2006), PI Schinske evaluated a classroom intervention, called Scientist Spotlights, aimed at helping diverse groups of students see themselves in science. Scientist Spotlightsconsist of regular, out of class assignments to showcase counter-stereotypical examples of scientists, while at the same introducing course content. Featured scientists were selected to: 1) present diverse perspectives on who scientists are and how science is done, and 2) match the community college biology content areas being covered at the time of each assignment. In each Scientist Spotlight, students reviewed a resource regarding the scientist’s research (e.g., a popular science article on her/his work), as well as a resource regarding the scientist’s personal history (e.g., an interview, Story Collider podcast, or TED talk). Here we share a sample Scientist Spotlight highlighting Dr. Brion Randolph and his research on genes and cancer. 

We evaluated four potential outcomes surrounding the implementation of Scientist Spotlights over two years of Human Biology courses (n=338 students) at a diverse community college: 1) shifting of students’ portrayals of scientists toward counter-stereotypical descriptions, 2) enhanced ability of students to relate to scientists on a personal level, 3) increased interest in STEM careers, and 4) increased performance in the course (Schinske, 2016). Students completed Scientist Spotlights on a weekly basis, and as the assignments were designed to match content learning goals, they replaced weekly textbook readings. Our study of Scientist Spotlights used a quasi-experimental design (Shadish et al., 2002; Trochim, M.K., 2006) including comparison classrooms that performed similar content-related homework assignments that lacked biographical information on scientists studying in those fields (“Course Reader” homework, n=126 students). Assessment tools used in evaluating our hypothesized outcomes are discussed in detail in Section 4.3.

Scientist Spotlights Shift Students’ Stereotypes of Scientists

The word clouds above depict changes in community college students’ written descriptions of “what types of people do science” surrounding the implementation of Scientist Spotlights. Font sizes in these word clouds correspond to the prevalence of each theme in students’ writing. Categorizing these descriptions with reference to the foundational literature on scientist stereotypes (e.g., Mead, 1957) evidenced statistically significant shifts toward counter-stereotypical descriptions of scientists that were maintained 6 months after the end of the course (see graph above). Students in comparison, Course Reader homework classes demonstrated no such shifts in scientist stereotypes (Schinske, 2016).

Students Personally Related to Scientists Following Scientist Spotlights

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Since the ability to see one’s possible self in science can correlate with STEM interest and mitigate stereotype threat (see Section 2.3), we developed a survey to assess the extent to which students find scientists relatable on a personal level. Students rated their ability to personally relate to scientists on a quantitative scale and then qualitatively described the reasoning behind their ratings. Students in Scientist Spotlight classes, but not those in comparison Course Reader homework classes, showed significant increases in the ability to relate to scientists (see graph below). As with shifts in stereotypes, these shifts in relatability were maintained 6 months after the course. Students’ written explanations suggested that their new ability to see themselves in scientists had changed their views of their ability to pursue a STEM career. For example, Yvette, a Latina student said, “In some of the spotlights scientists felt that they didn’t always want to pursue a career in science and that it just happens. I’m starting to feel the same way. I’m not originally a science major but I feel that I could have a future in it if I find the right field. And Rachel, a Filipina student noted, “Being exposed to a wide variety of diverse scientists, I feel like I could go into this field if I wanted to. Many of the scientists we learned about were women and many were a race other than White. These are both characteristics I would use to describe myself.” 

Shifts in Stereotypes and Relatability Described Above Correlated with STEM Career Interest and Course Grades

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We developed a “Science Interest Scale” based on previously validated survey items (Seymour, 2000), allowing us to assess increases in STEM career interest from beginning to end of the course for students that shifted away from stereotypical views regarding scientists (see graph). In addition, after controlling for differences in students’ past science class experiences and differences between treatment groups, we found a significant treatment effect for Scientist Spotlights on course grades, with Scientist Spotlight students receiving higher whole-course grades than equivalent Course Reader homework students (see graph). In summary, our findings with community college students suggest Scientist Spotlights could be a broadly applicable and easily adopted intervention for enhancing science identity, increasing STEM career interest, and boosting performance among students who might not see themselves in science.

Program Design and Methods

The Scientist Spotlights Initiative emerges from a wonderful confluence of events in the SF Bay Area across multiple institutions and is grounded in education research and change theories that students must see themselves in the science disciplines, move away from scientist stereotypes, and build their own science identities to increase their interest in science generally and as a potential career. To accomplish our specific aims, the Scientist Spotlights Initiative effort will engage a diverse and talented group of stakeholders in the effort, from Foothill Community College, SFSU, SFUSD and other SF Bay Area middle and high schools, and several informal science education organizations. As shown in the graphic overview, the effort will occur in three phases: Development (Aim 1), Implementation and Assessment (Aim 2), and Dissemination (Aim 3). Below, we describe the goals, structure, anticipated challenges, and outcomes for each aim and its subcomponents.

Developing the Scientist Spotlights Initiative Collection

In this section, we detail our plans for the Development phase of the Scientist Spotlights Initiative. First, we describe the proposed product – the Scientist Spotlights Collection – that will result from the effort (see section A). Second, we describe the proposed methods for the development of this Scientist Spotlights Collection in collaboration with diverse college and university students – who bring the perspective of near peers to middle and high school students – as part of their enrollment in biology service-learning courses at Foothill College and SFSU (see section B). Third, we outline the key role of middle and high school teachers who will provide iterative feedback on the Scientist Spotlights as they develop, addressing NGSS-alignment, readability, and student engagement based on piloting Spotlights with their own middle and high school students and prior to the implementation phase.

Produce Scientist Spotlights Collection aligned with NGSS Life Science DCIs

Goals: We will develop a collection of over 200 Scientist Spotlights – each with three versions adapted for accessibility for middle school, high school, and community college – as education research-based curriculum supplements that can introduce counter-stereotypical examples of scientists, while at the same time support teachers in addressing NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs). Featured scientists will be selected to: 1) present diverse perspectives on who scientists are and how science is done, and 2) align with NGSS DCIs. For example, the sample Scientist Spotlight for Dr. Brion Randolph (see Section 3.2 above) aligns with the NGGS DCI, LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits, as well as with the post-secondary Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education core concept of Information Flow (NGSS, 2017; AAAS, 2011).

Structure: Each Scientist Spotlight will consist of five key components that were previously shown to shift students’ stereotypes of scientists and increase their own science identity (Schinske, 2016; see table). Each Spotlight begins with a photograph of the scientist, which can highlight visible aspects of diversity. Then, in each Scientist Spotlight, students will review a resource regarding the scientist’s personal history (e.g., an online interview, a Story Collider podcast, or a TED talk), as well as a resource regarding the scientist’s research (e.g., popular science article or translation of a journal article). Since these curriculum supplements will introduce students to some aspects of life science course content, they may in some places serve to replace weekly textbook readings. The writing prompts (see e.g., Brion Randolph sample in Section 3.2) are aimed at creating opportunities for student metacognition, which is an oft neglected part of learning (Tanner, 2012). While student reflection prompts on the scientist and their research change slightly from one Spotlight to the next, the third reflection prompt – “What do these resources tell you about the types of people that do science?” – will always be included. Previous research on the Scientist Spotlight intervention with community college students suggested that this question was key to the gains seen in comparison to a control population of students (Schinske, 2016). 

Content: In developing over 200 Scientist Spotlights by the end of Year 2we anticipate producing ~50 Spotlights for each of the four NGSS life sciences Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs): LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and ProcessesLS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and DynamicsLS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits, and LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity. Within these 50 Scientist Spotlights for each life science Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI), we will attend to highlighting diversity with respect to several aspects of personal identity, with a strong focus on representing scientists of a variety of ethnicities and cultures, but also including representation of individuals from multiple gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities and disabilities, socio-economic backgrounds, and linguistic backgrounds. While there are many sources for identifying current, practicing scientists from diverse backgrounds, we anticipate initially drawing on programs that specifically promote inclusion in science such as SACNAS: Society for the Advancement of Chicano and Native American Scientists, the new Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Hanna Gray Fellow Program, and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. In the four tables distributed throughout this section, we show examples of potential Scientist Spotlights and their NGSS alignment that will be developed in this initiative. While these individuals were initially identified for Scientist Spotlights in community colleges, we anticipate beginning our development process by adapting these existing Scientist Spotlights for middle and high school students. Middle and High School teacher partners will be essential in providing iterative feedback on Spotlights during the development process (see Aim 1C). 

Addressing Anticipated Challenges: One challenge could involve finding accessible resources for Spotlights from outside sources in ways that will not require us to navigate complicated copyright clearances. We have already identified two key media partners, Science Friday and Story Collider (see Letters), that produce relevant content and are enthusiastic about having students linked to their content through Scientist Spotlights. For news articles, we will link students directly to the organizations’ websites and will use sources that are commonly available for free to students through their schools/libraries (e.g., New York Times, Washington Post). The Scientist Spotlight website (see Section 4.4) will also require users to register for a free account to view assignments, providing some level of privacy and separation of the content from the web in general. Another challenge could involve the availability of materials about the scientists and their research that are at appropriate reading levels, in particular for middle school students. If this proves to be a common challenge, we may engage the college and university students in composing more simplified materials, instead of linking to existing interviews and lay articles that are already available. This could slow the production of Spotlights; however, since the biology service-learning courses, once established, will be offered annually, we would still be able to produce the entire Scientist Spotlights Collection over time. 

Outcomes: Upon completion of the second year of this Scientist Spotlight Initiative, we will have produced and received teacher feedback on ~200 Scientist Spotlights, which will then be ready for use in the implementation and assessment phase of the effort. This Scientist Spotlight Collection will be aligned with the NGSS DCIs and highlight scientists of diverse ethnic, gender, linguistic, ability, and socioeconomic status backgrounds. Importantly, each Spotlight will have been developed in three different versions, specifically adapted for middle school, high school, and community college students.

Engage diverse college-level students in the development of Scientist Spotlights for pre-college students through establishment of biology service-learning courses 

  SF Public Schools ¶ Foothill Comm. College*San Francisco State University^
African American7%5%6%
Filipino/Pacific Islander5%7%9%
Native American<1%<1%<1%
English Language Learners24%UnavailUnavail
Free/Red. Lunch55%Not ApplNot Appl

Below, we describe our methods for developing the initial Scientist Spotlights Collection, which will occur in strong collaboration with a diverse group of college and university life science students who are enrolled in biology service-learning courses at their institutions.

Goals: The Scientist Spotlights Initiative has the goal to engage diverse groups of college and university students in the Scientist Spotlights development process. This is important for two key reasons. First, this approach holds the promise of maximizing the relevance of the developed materials, as these post-secondary co-developers represent the nearest peers to middle and high school students (see table). All of the institutional partners serve majority students of color, with approximately a third of students from groups under-represented in the sciences, namely Latina, African-American/Black, and Native American, as well as substantial Filipino/Pacific Islander populations. Second, this approach will enable sustainability of the effort long after completion of funding, through the on-going engagement of diverse undergraduate students in future years in the production of new Scientist Spotlights as part of their enrollment in service-learning courses at Foothill College and SFSU that will endure.

Structure and Content: Both Foothill Community College and SFSU will establish biology service-learning courses that will engage ~20 students per year who will each develop ~4 Scientist Spotlights in three versions (middle school, high school, and community college). These biology service-learning courses will be modeled on an existing SFSU biology course – Biol 652: Science Partners in K-12 Education (SPIKE) course – that was pioneered as part of the institutionalization of an NSF G-K12 Partnership Program (2004-10) and that has been offered each year since by PI Tanner. The SPIKE service-learning course was and continues to be the only service-learning course in the biology department. This course is annually over-subscribed, suggesting that students would fill a second service-learning offering. In addition to a 2-hour seminar in effective biology teaching, pairs of students are partnered with 2 public elementary or middle school teachers to co-plan and co-teach 6 science lessons in the teachers’ classrooms over the semester. 

While similar in time commitment and unit structure, the new Scientist Spotlights course will be different in four key ways (see graphic). First, each student in the course will be lead developer on four Scientist Spotlights. Second, the seminar component will engage students in discussing current knowledge and research related to promoting equity and diversity in science and cultivating students’ science identity, as well as in reflecting on their own experiences in science education and exploring inclusive teaching practices. Third, in the context of their service-learning fieldwork component, these college and university science students will research materials to build their Scientist Spotlights and interact regularly with the project’s partner middle and high school teachers for feedback at monthly gatherings. Finally, these new courses will be taught annually both at Foothill Community College by PI Schinske and at SFSU by PI Tanner, bringing the project leadership into regular and close contact with these post-secondary students. 

Addressing Anticipated Challenges: We anticipate that the first year of this effort will be required to navigate institutional approvals to establish these courses, with students enrolling in the courses in Year 2. The challenges at Foothill Community College will likely be different than for SFSU. Since there is no precedent for a biology service-learning course at Foothill, there may be a variety of challenges in getting the course set-up in the first year of the effort. However, as seen in the letters of support, Foothill Community College is deeply committed to expanding service-learning in general and supporting the development of a new biology service-learning course to support this Scientist Spotlights effort, specifically. At SFSU, we anticipate the challenge will arise more from high demand from our biology students to participate. In a pilot SFSU effort this semester, we had over 20 students who were eager to participate in a pilot project design for just 3-5 students to explore developing Scientist Spotlights.

Outcomes: By the end of Year 2, both Foothill Community College and SFSU will have established biology service-learning courses that engage ~20 students per year in developing ~4 Scientist Spotlights, each in three versions (middle school, high school, and community college). Therefore, by the end of the second year, there will be ~200 Scientist Spotlights ready for the Implementation and Assessment phase of the effort. Additionally, these established biology service-learning courses will institutionalize an on-going mechanism to continue to produce new Scientist Spotlights into the future.

Engage secondary science teachers in review and iterative improvement of middle and high school versions of each Scientist Spotlight 

In the development phase of the effort – prior to any formal, course-wide implementation of Scientist Spotlights (see Aim 2), we will engage with middle and high school teacher partners to pilot and provide iterative feedback on Scientist Spotlights. Below we provide details on our goals and their role in the development phase of the project.

Goals: We have three key goals for involving middle and high school teachers in piloting and providing feedback on Scientist Spotlights as they are developed. First, we want to make sure that the alignment between Scientist Spotlights and the NGSS life science Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) is strong. Currently, we aim to align Scientist Spotlights with the overarching NSGG life science core concepts; however, we may find that teachers need a finer level of alignment to sub-concepts. Second, we have no doubt that teachers will be key in evaluating the readability of Scientist Spotlights that are being adapted for middle school compared to high school compared to community college. Regular communication about readability of these curriculum supplements among secondary science teacher partners, the project leadership, and the college and university students developing Spotlights will be key. Finally, we will engage teachers in piloting a limited number of Spotlights in Year 2. Our prior work (Schinske, 2016) suggests Scientist Spotlights are highly engaging for students and that allowing teachers an opportunity to observe such student engagement will motivate and prepare them for the next implementation phase.

Structure and Content: Middle and high school teacher partners will be engaged in monthly working meetings with the PIs and student leaders who are developing Scientist Spotlights in their biology service-learning courses. Initially during the development phase of the effort, the teachers’ role will be to share insights about their own student populations, as well as their curriculum and its alignment with NGSS. Additionally, they will be engaged in regularly reviewing and providing feedback on draft Scientist Spotlights being produced by the Foothill Community College and SFSU student leaders. We anticipate that teachers will informally share these with their own students in their classrooms to gauge student interest and explore how readable these Spotlights are for middle school and high school students. Finally, these monthly gatherings will continue into the Implementation and Assessment phase, providing opportunities for training in the Responsible Conduct of Research for all participants and for discussing the experimental design for investigating Scientist Spotlights as compared to a non-scientist-focused activity (see sections 4.2 and 7 below).

Addressing Anticipated Challenges: As always, it can be challenging to engage busy, overworked teachers in collaborative project meetings. As such, we aim to hold these working meetings over a meal and held at the same time that the biology service-learning courses are already happening, likely in the late afternoon. Additionally, as shown in the letters of support, we have already identified an eager population of middle and high school teachers who are alumni of the lead institutions and themselves a diverse population of individuals who pursued the life sciences from middle school to college. Finally, we anticipate that there will be a variety of adjustments needed in the first year to understand how to best produce middle school and high school versions of Scientist Spotlights that are both accessible and engaging.

Outcomes: By the end of second year of the effort, our 8 middle and high school science teachers, as well as 4 community college biology teachers, will have contributed critical feedback on ~25 Scientist Spotlights each that align with their grade level (middle school or high school). Specifically, teachers will have reviewed and given feedback on alignment with NGSS, readability, and student engagement for each Scientist Spotlight. As such by the end of the second year, there will be ~200 Scientist Spotlightsready for the implementation and assessment phase.

Implementing & Assessing the Impact of Scientist Spotlights 

In this section, we detail our plans to evaluate the impacts of Scientist Spotlights in minority-serving schools spanning three educational levels: middle school, high school, and community college. As discussed in Section 3.2, quasi-control studies of Scientist Spotlights over two years in a community college course provided evidence for four key outcomes following implementation of Scientist Spotlights: 1) students shifted to use mostly counter-stereotypical descriptions for scientists, 2) students found scientists more personally relatable and similar to themselves, 3) students exhibited increased interest in STEM careers, and 4) students in classes including the intervention achieved higher grades than those in comparison classes (Schinske, 2016). Because grading systems differ dramatically – particularly in the extent to which grades are based on evaluative scoring of content knowledge – between middle, high school, and community college, we do not anticipate analyzing treatment effects on grades in this effort. Rather, we intend to focus on the areas where previous research found the most dramatic impacts of Scientist Spotlights: scientist stereotypes and science identity (Schinske, 2016). The assessment phase will draw heavily on the expertise and capacity of SEPAL postdoctoral scholars to analyze qualitative and quantitative assessments and to produce reports and articles on their findings.

Implement weekly Scientist Spotlights with teacher partners in comparison with a non-Scientist Spotlight weekly assignment

Goals: Following our earlier publications (Schinske, 2015; Schinske 2016), numerous science teachers at middle schools, high schools, and community colleges have expressed enthusiasm for implementing Scientist Spotlights in their contexts (see e.g., Letters of Support). Given that our original publications reported on the outcomes of Scientist Spotlights in just one class context, there is great interest in replicating that work to see if similar outcomes will be achieved with a variety of teachers and across educational levels. Implementing Scientist Spotlights across diverse classroom settings alongside comparison activities will fulfill the goal of replicating our earlier work and searching for unique outcomes in new teaching contexts. 

Structure: Implementation of Scientist Spotlights will follow the quasi-experimental approach used in our earlier work (Schinske, 2016). We anticipate that our 4 middle and 4 high school teacher partners will each teach, on average, four classes of students each semester with approximately 30 students in each class. We anticipate that our 4 community college instructors will each teach two lecture sections each quarter with approximately 60 students in each section. Due to similarities between the high school and community college teaching contexts, Scientist Spotlights will first be implemented at those educational levels (Year 3, see Timeline in Section 4.5). In anticipation that it might take additional time to adapt assignments for a middle school audience (see Challenges under 4.2.A), implementation in middle school classrooms will occur in Year 4. In those years, teachers will implement weekly Scientist Spotlights in half of their classes and a weekly comparison activity in the other half of their classes. As such, for each teacher, 60 students will be completing Scientist Spotlights and 60 students will be completing the comparison activity. In total, then, ~240 middle school students, ~240 high school students, and ~240 community college students will be in each treatment group (1,440 total students involved across treatments in Years 3-4). The comparison activity will consist of a metacognitive homework assignment on an engaging content-aligned reading (e.g., the Washington Post article from the sample Scientist Spotlight above), but with no scientist information provided. While students will not be randomly assigned to treatments under this quasi-experimental design, approaches of this sort can still provide robust and valuable insights, and even offer advantages over randomized experiments in certain contexts (Shadish et al., 2002).

Content: Content for the implementation phase will come from Scientist Spotlights created under Aim 1 (Section 4.2). Middle school and high school teachers will have access to Scientist Spotlights aligned with NGSS and reviewed for readability and student engagement for their age levels. Community college instructors will have similar Scientist Spotlights aligned with Vision and Change content areas. Comparison activities will be slightly modified versions of Scientist Spotlights, where the assignments are edited to eliminate tasks related to scientist biographies.

Addressing Anticipated Challenges: It could prove challenging to help teachers feel comfortable implementing a new, weekly activity as part of their classes, especially when some of their students are completing a different, comparison activity. Monthly gatherings will be key in arriving at common expectations among teachers and discussing language to use in class when explaining the activities. Teachers’ experiences piloting a limited number of Spotlights in Year 2 (see Section 4.2.C) will additionally assist in preparing them for wider implementation.

Outcomes: By the end of Year 4, 12 teachers and ~1,440 students, divided equally among middle schools, high schools, and community college, will have participated in the implementation phase. Half of those students will have completed weekly Scientist Spotlights while the other half will have completed the weekly comparison activity.

Monitor for shifts in students’ stereotypes about the types of people do science 

Goals: Prior studies have indicated that holding stereotypical perceptions of scientists can decrease a sense of belonging in science for some students and impact persistence and success in STEM (see Section 2.1). Our prior work showed promise for Scientist Spotlights in reshaping students’ perceptions of scientists around counter-stereotypical descriptions (Schinske, 2016). One goal of the assessment phase is to evaluate the impacts of Scientist Spotlights on students’ stereotypes of scientists in diverse classrooms at a variety of educational levels. 

Content: We will use a previously validated assessment tool to detect shifts in students’ scientist stereotypes between the Scientist Spotlight intervention and the comparison activity (see Section 2 above; Schinske, 2015; Schinske, 2016). While the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST) – where participants are asked simply to “draw a picture of a scientist” – represents one of the most widely used surveys of scientist stereotypes, numerous studies have pointed out weaknesses with the DAST and questioned whether it captures an accurate view of how individuals view scientists (Sumrall, 1995; Symington, 1999; Thomas 2006). Additionally, this assessment was developed for younger students where writing was challenging. Since we will assess students who are in middle school through community college, we developed an alternate stereotypes survey prompt that reads, “Based on what you know now, describe the types of people that do science. If possible, refer to specific scientists and what they tell you about the types of people that do science” (Schinske, 2015). Students provide written responses to this prompt, which can then be analyzed by multiple coders, blind to whether the student was in a Scientist Spotlight or comparison classroom. 

Structure: During the implementation phase, on the first day of the fall term, teachers will provide their students with the above stereotypes survey prompt. The prompt will be printed at the top of a blank sheet of paper and students will be asked to provide their candid thoughts in writing. Teachers will emphasize that students’ papers will not be graded and that there are no right or wrong answers. The same survey prompt will be provided to students on the last day of the fall term, after students have completed either weekly Scientist Spotlights or the weekly comparison activity. To capture longitudinal trends in students’ descriptions of scientists, this stereotypes prompt will be provided one more time at the end of the spring term. SEPAL postdoctoral scholars will take the lead on coordinating these assessments.

Analyses: SEPAL postdoctoral scholars will analyze stereotypes survey responses to determine whether differences exist between Scientist Spotlight students and those completing the comparison activity. They will anonymize the surveys and review papers blind to treatment groups and survey time (beginning of fall vs. end of fall vs. end of spring). Descriptions of scientists will be categorized and analyzed with reference to the literature on scientist stereotypes (Schinske, 2015). Postdoctoral scholars will identify qualitative themes and quantify stereotypical vs. counter-stereotypical descriptions. The statistics consultant will play a key role in using multivariate techniques to quantitatively assess differences between treatment groups, between demographic groups of students (boys vs. girls, underrepresented vs. well-represented), and between institution types (middle vs. high school vs. community college).

Addressing Anticipated Challenges: We anticipate a major challenge will involve organizing and analyzing qualitative surveys from ~1,440 students at three separate time points. This demonstrates the critical role of the SEPAL postdoctoral scholars who will have the analytical skills and capacity to coordinate this effort, produce results, and draft manuscripts.

Outcomes: Following implementation and assessment, we will have evaluated scientist stereotypes held by ~1,440 students at highly diverse institutions ranging from middle to high school and community college. These data will allow us to assess the impacts of Scientist Spotlights on stereotypes and disaggregate among student groups to search for differential impacts among educational levels and demographic groups.

Assess students’ science identity, self-efficacy, and STEM career interest before and after the Scientist Spotlights intervention

Goals: Seeing one’s self reflected in science and scientists (e.g., having a strong “science possible self”) is thought to play an important role in forming a science identity and persisting in STEM (see Section 2.3). One goal of the assessment phase is to understand the impacts of Scientist Spotlights on students’ possible science selves, and consequently their impacts on self-efficacy and career interest.

Content: For the reasons discussed above in Section 2, we have chosen to assess science possible selves as one important element of science identity. Our survey prompt for this assessment will consist of the challenge statement, “I know of one or more important scientist to whom I can personally relate,” followed by a Likert scale including Agree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree, Disagree, and I Don’t Know. Following the Likert scale, students are instructed to “Please explain your opinion of the statement.” Our prior work suggests that explicitly asking students about their ability personally relate to scientists creates opportunities for students to reflect on their possible selves in relation to scientists (Schinske, 2016). To assess self-efficacy and STEM career interest, we will use a modified version of the Student Assessment of their Learning Gains (SALG) (Seymour, 2000). This widely-used survey includes a variety of items such as “I am interested in pursuing a STEM career,” “I am interested in taking additional classes in this subject,” and “I am confident I can do this subject” followed by quantitative choices to indicate levels of agreement. In prior work, we have successfully validated scales from SALG items to describe students’ self-efficacy and career interests (Schinske, 2016).   

Structure: These assessments will follow the same timeline as the assessments described in Part B above, with surveys provided at the beginning of the fall term, the end of the fall term, and longitudinally at the end of the spring term. As above, SEPAL postdoctoral scholars will take the lead on anonymizing surveys, analyzing responses blind to treatment group, identifying qualitative themes, and performing statistical analyses to quantify shifts in science identity, self-efficacy, and STEM career interest.

Analyses: As in Section B above, SEPAL postdoctoral scholars will analyze survey responses to determine whether differences exist between Scientist Spotlight and comparison activity students. They will anonymize the qualitative responses to the possible selves prompt and review papers blind to treatment groups and survey time. After categorizing student responses, postdoctoral scholars will identify examples to represent common themes regarding students’ ability to relate to scientists. The statistics consultant will analyze quantitative data from students’ Likert scale selections on the possible selves survey and will perform statistical analyses on the quantitative items surrounding self-efficacy and career interest. Quantitative analyses will include student demographics and institution type as covariates in order to understand the influence of those factors in observed shifts.

Addressing Anticipated Challenges: As before, one challenge will involve processing large amounts of qualitative data from students’ possible selves survey responses. Postdoctoral scholars will provide expertise and intellectual capacity to address this challenge. An additional challenge will be to validate survey items in these new classroom contexts and ensure that our surveys adequately describe phenomena like self-efficacy and career interest. The statistics consultant will provide expertise in social science methodology around factor analysis and multivariate modeling to critically assess our methods.

Outcomes: Following implementation and assessment, we will have evaluated science possible selves, self-efficacy, and career interest among ~1,440 students at our partner institutions. These data will allow us to assess the impacts of Scientist Spotlights on a number of broad outcomes surrounding science interest and science identity.

Disseminating Scientist Spotlights and Resulting Research

In this section, we detail our dissemination phase plans for this Scientist Spotlights Initiative. First, we will describe the Scientist Spotlights Initiative website that will be a key mechanism of reaching teachers across the nation (see section A). Second, we describe local and regional partnerships – with schools, a museum, and two media partners – that will highlight the Scientist Spotlights Collection in the context of their own educational programming (see section B). Third, we outline our commitment to the scholarly publication of the results of our assessment and investigation of this Scientist Spotlights intervention with middle and high school students, as well as community college students, which will be of broad interest to stakeholders in multiple disciplines.

Build and maintain online Scientist Spotlights Collection, which will be available nationwide and continue to expand 

Goals: The Scientist Spotlights Collection produced will be freely available and online for access by teachers across the nation and even internationally. We will partner with a web developer to build a Scientist Spotlights Initiative website, beginning in the first year of the effort to begin dissemination. 

Structure: The Scientist Spotlights Initiative website will be structured around the NGSS life science Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs), as well as organized by the target level of the different versions of each Scientist Spotlight, namely middle school, high school, and community college. While the website will be built as a memorable (e.g., and stand-alone resource, we plan to intentionally link to many partner organization websites (see section B below). In addition, the website will have a research and assessment section linking visitors to investigations of the efficacy of Scientist Spotlights in shifting students’ scientist stereotypes and influencing their science identity and interest. Teachers will be able to register for a free account for access to Scientist Spotlight assignments, which will be searchable by biology topics and scientist characteristics. As such, teachers could easily locate assignments corresponding to an upcoming topic area (e.g., cell division) as well as showcasing a scientist that might share characteristics with their students (e.g., Latina). The highly successful National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science website ( will serve as one potential model during the development of the Scientist Spotlights website.

Content: The website will initially be populated by the ~200 Scientist Spotlights produced in the development phase of the effort. Importantly, though, we anticipate continual updating and expansion of the collection long after the end of the NIH SEPA grant award, through the production of new Scientist Spotlights annually by student leaders in the Foothill Community College and SFSU biology service-learning courses, as well as by other teachers nationwide that might independently develop Spotlights for their classes. This will enable the Scientist Spotlights Collection to continue to expand and represent emerging scientists from diverse backgrounds. Additionally, we will provide the assessment tools we use and refine in investigating the influence of the intervention (see Aim 2). This will enable teachers nationwide to explore the impact of Scientist Spotlights in their own classrooms, much like high school teacher partner Gianne Souza, who was inspired to conduct her own classroom action research project using the Scientist Spotlight intervention (see Letters). 

Addressing Anticipated Challenges: The largest challenge that we anticipate will be the on-going monitoring of online resources that are used to engage students and linked to in the Scientist Spotlights. As shown in the sample Scientist Spotlight (see Section 3.2), students are given links to online resources to explore to learn about the scientist being highlighted. Given the shifting nature of online resources, we will need to actively test these linked resources each year during and after the grant. During the granting period, we will work closely with the web developer to set-up automated monitoring systems that will alert us to change. After the grant period, the existing SFSU SEPAL Resource Center, under the direction of PI Tanner, has student assistants that can conduct link checking annually as work study duties.

Outcomes: After one year, we will have established an initial Scientist Spotlights Initiative website describing the project. At the end of the development phase, we will have populated the website with ~200 Scientist Spotlights. By the fourth year of the effort, we anticipate sharing assessment evidence on the influence of the Scientist Spotlights intervention on middle and high school students’ scientist stereotypes, science identity, and science interest, compared to a non-scientist focused activity.

Disseminate Scientist Spotlights Collection to science teachers in partnership with the California Academy of Science, SF Bay Area schools, and media partners

Goals: While the Scientist Spotlights Initiative website will be our main avenue of dissemination directly to teachers, we will also partner with other local and regional organizations that interact regularly with educators to raise interest and profile for the effort. 

Structure: Our initial partners to facilitate local and regional dissemination include the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), and Eastside College Preparatory School. In addition, we have two strong media collaborators – Science Friday and Story Collider – that have broader and more national reaches and that are eager to connect this student-focused Scientist Spotlights Initiative with their own content to promote science literacy among the general public. In all cases, we will work with the individual organizations to integrate Scientist Spotlights into their existing programming. For example, we may offer a professional development workshop in the context of on-going SFUSD teacher professional development efforts. The California Academy of Sciences has offered to disseminate Scientist Spotlights to their extensive teacher network via their regular email and web communications. Additionally, they have pioneered workshop and institute offerings on NGSS for teachers where Scientist Spotlights could be integrated to bring a focus on equity and diversity to teachers in the context of science content explorations. Finally, with our media partners, we will work to connect the stories of science and scientists that are emerging from their programs into the developed Scientist Spotlight materials, and in turn our partners can highlight the Scientist Spotlight curriculum supplement materials in their communications with educators, specifically, as well as the general public more broadly. For more information on our organizational partners, see Section 10 below.

Content: While the structure of dissemination activities will vary depending on the partner with whom we are working, the content will always focus on the Scientist Spotlights Initiative main website, the Scientist Spotlights Collection, and the assessment evidence collected in schools.

Addressing Anticipated Challenges: The challenges we anticipate in this arm of our dissemination plan are not unique to our project. Teachers are often overwhelmed with information and possible resources with little time to consider new support to their teaching. Our strategy is that by supplementing our Scientist Spotlights Initiative web presence with dissemination through existing teacher programs in partner organizations, we may more effectively get the word out about Scientist Spotlights.

Outcomes: Upon completion of this phase, we anticipate disseminating the Scientist Spotlights Initiative to teachers and the general public, in collaboration with our school, museum, and media partners, to supplement our direct access dissemination approach via the Scientist Spotlights Initiative website.

Publish findings about impact of pre-college Scientist Spotlights Initiative in biology education research journals and at professional conferences

Goals: As with all of our scholarly work in science education, we anticipate publishing peer-reviewed research articles and presenting our results at science education and teaching conferences. For this Scientist Spotlights Initiative, we anticipate publishing the results from the Implementation and Assessment phase of the project in a publication that would be similar to the 2016 Schinske research article on the impact of Scientist Spotlights in community colleges. Additionally, we will present annually at science education conferences, involving several teachers and student leaders, during the final years of the project. Both PIs regularly attend these conferences and publish work in biology education journals.

Structure: Importantly, the scholarly publications and presentations that emerge from this effort will involve co-authors who are our teacher collaborators, our undergraduate student leader collaborators, and our community partners. Teachers and student leaders will be engaged in Responsible Conduct of Research Training, design of the investigation, and analyses of the results in their monthly gatherings with the project leadership. This community-based approach to publishing science education research and development efforts will be similar to several recent high-profile publications from PI Tanner and PI Schinske that engaged dozens of biology instructors in developing novel tools and teaching approaches at the post-secondary level (Owens, 2017; Owens, 2018; see Biosketches).

Content:  We anticipate presenting and publishing findings about the influence of the Scientist Spotlights intervention on middle and high school students’ scientist stereotypes, science identity, and science interest, compared to a non-scientist focused activity (see Aim 2). Additionally, while not central to this proposal, we also anticipate that we will gain insights through program evaluation about the impact of this effort on the undergraduate student leaders involved in developing Scientist Spotlights. Since prior research by PI Schinske demonstrated positive impacts on community college students from completing Scientist Spotlights as assignments, we hypothesize that we might see similar positive outcomes among student leaders in the Foothill Community College and SFSU biology service-learning courses. 

Addressing Anticipated Challenges: While we have had great recent success in developing local community-based research collaborations that result in conference presentations and research publications, we will no doubt need to support our science teacher colleagues understanding the processes of analyzing data, crafting manuscripts, and navigating the scientific review process. That said, several of our middle and high school teacher collaborators have been engaged previously in research and are excited about being involved in a research effort again through this initiative.

Outcomes: Upon completion of the dissemination phase, we anticipate publishing at least one scholarly article on the impact of Scientist Spotlights intervention on pre-college students, with a high likelihood that additional research manuscripts will emerge. Additionally, we will present our work annually at science education and teaching conferences. Finally, we will have trained dozens of teacher and student leader collaborators, as well as postdoctoral scholars, in the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Project Timeline

The Scientist Spotlights Initiative will promote diversity and inclusion in science through development, assessment, and dissemination of education research-based curriculum supplements that bring rare science role models to students. Over 5 years, we will develop and investigate the impact of ~200 unique Scientist Spotlight curriculum supplements that would allow science instructors in middle schools, high schools, and community college to integrate diversity explicitly into their courses in alignment with life science content. Additionally, we will establish biology service-learning courses at our institutions to sustain these efforts beyond the grant period. Over 40 non-traditional college-level students/year and ~12 science teachers/year will participate in developing, piloting, and assessing Scientist Spotlights, and the leadership team will continue our record of publishing research on such efforts with SEPAL postdoctoral scholars. All results of the effort will be posted publicly on a Scientists Spotlights Initiative website to make materials widely available to science teachers across the nation and the world. See table below for timeline of activities for each of the three phases of the effort.

Program Evaluation

We view program evaluation as an integral part of the effort, not a segregated endeavor or an external process of review. Program evaluation is distinct from and complementary to the research and assessment activities on the Scientist Spotlights intervention described above. To gauge program effectiveness in progressing towards its aims, we will collaborate with the Advisory Board and External Evaluator, Dr. Loretta Kelley, to monitor timely progress of the effort, make mid-course adjustments, and collect additional evidence from participants to gauge general program effectiveness. Previous work with Dr. Kelley in NIH SEPA-funded efforts has been highly productive and contributed to program refinement. Below we describe briefly our approaches to both formative and summative program evaluation.

Formative Evaluation: Formative evaluation of Scientist Spotlights Initiative effort will be accomplished via three mechanisms. First, a Scientist Spotlights Initiative Advisory Board will be convened and formative feedback solicited annually. Second, the External Evaluator will attend project activities, interview participants at key junctures, and provide direct feedback to project leadership. Formative interviews with participating teachers and student leaders will provide confidential mechanisms for constructive feedback for the PIs. Third, the Scientist Spotlights Initiative PI’s will collect evaluation data from participants during each project activity, to provide mechanisms for feedback and drive iterative program improvement. For example, program evaluation evidence will be collected at monthly gatherings of teachers and student leaders, probing issues ranging from program structure to lessons learned about responsible conduct of research. Complementary to research and assessment data collected directly about the Scientist Spotlights intervention (see Aim 2), evaluation efforts will probe participants’ attitudes and experiences, using both open-ended and closed-ended questions. These reflective data from participants, coupled with External Evaluator observations, has previously provided a wealth of evaluation evidence that can drive mid-project course corrections and reveal unanticipated challenges and opportunities.

Summative Evaluation: We will also evaluate the project summatively at the culmination of each phase – Development, Implementation and Assessment, and Dissemination – as to whether we have met our proposed goals and timeline for progress for that phase of the initiative. Summative evaluation will be in conducted by the External Evaluator and reviewed with the PIs and the Advisory Board. Finally, participating teachers and student leaders will write summative final reflection essays, as well as complete summative online surveys. These summative results will provide insights into their experiences in the project, which are important yet not the focus of the research and assessment effort (see Aim 2).

Recruitment Plan to Enhance Diversity

All institutions involved in the Scientists Spotlights Initiative are majority students of color and over a third of their enrollments are under-represented populations in the sciences (see table in Aim 1). Over the course of the effort, we will engage ~160 post-secondary students from Foothill Community College and San Francisco State University who will primarily be students of color who are also first-generation college-going. In addition, we will collaborate closely with 4 middle school teachers, 4 high school teachers, and 4 community college instructors and their ~1,440 students, all of whom will be drawn from institutions that serve high proportions of educationally disadvantaged youth and students on free/reduced lunch. Finally, both PIs Tanner and Schinske are committed to inclusion of diverse perspectives in the selection of participating teachers, undergraduate students, SEPAL postdoctoral scholars, and Advisory Board members. External Evaluator Loretta Kelley will assist in monitoring diversity of participants.

Plan for Training in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

All collaborators involved in the implementation and dissemination phase of the Scientists Spotlights Initiative – including middle and high school teacher collaborators, undergraduate student leaders from Foothill Community College and SFSU, and any community college or SFSU faculty involved in teaching the biology service-learning courses – will receive training in Responsible Conduct of Research.

Format: Training in RCR will occur during the monthly gatherings of teacher collaborators and undergraduate student leaders during the development and implementation and assessment phases of the effort. The format will use a scientific teaching approach, engaging participants actively in learning the materials through case studies, reflections, small group discussions. These teaching methods are a key area of expertise for both PI Tanner and PI Schinske who have engaged hundreds of science instructors in professional development in scientific teaching for almost a decade. RCR training will be a portion of each of these gatherings, so that it is deeply integrated.

Subject Matter: As a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Responsible Science in Egypt, Phase 3: Fostering Academic Curricula, PI Tanner has collaborated with leaders in the field of RCR and supported the effective teaching of these concepts through her own expertise in scientific teaching (see Biosketch). Given the nature of the Scientists Spotlights Initiative, we will focus training on five key topics that are most relevant to the effort (see table). 

Faculty Participation: The community college and SFSU faculty involved in teaching the biology service-learning courses – primarily led by PIs Tanner and Schinske – will receive training in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). Additionally, middle and high school teachers, as well as community college instructors involved in implementing and assessing Scientist Spotlights in their classrooms (see Aim 2) will participate in all RCR activities. 

Duration of Instruction: The RCR training duration will span a term – semester or quarter – since it will be linked the activities of the biology service learning courses, which last a term. 

Frequency of Instruction: RCR training will occur monthly in the context of monthly working meetings with the Project Leadership, undergraduate student leaders who are developing Scientist Spotlights in their biology service-learning courses, and teacher collaborators implementing and assessing Scientist Spotlights in their classrooms. 

Institutional Environment and Commitment

As shown in the positive accompanying letters of support, Foothill Community College (CC) and San Francisco State University administrators are strongly supportive of the proposed effort. All are committed to institutionalizing and sustaining the Scientist Spotlights Initiative beyond the grant through the establishment of biology service-learning courses. Both institutions have strong track records not only in supporting the scholarly work of PIs Tanner and Schinske, but also in pioneering a variety of efforts to promote inclusion, access, and diversity in science. In particular, PI Tanner’s laboratory – SEPAL: The Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory – was founded in 2004 as the institutionalization of an NSF GK-12 Track 2 Award. Over 13 years, SEPAL has endured and expanded to become a nationally recognized science education research lab, working on issues from Kindergarten through College. Given its history of facilitating cross-institutional partnerships and managing large science education grants, PI Tanner’s SFSU SEPAL is well-positioned to facilitate this effort in collaboration with Foothill CC, the Advisory Board, the External Evaluator, and partner organizations.

Project Leadership and Collaborators

While the lead institutions for this Scientist Spotlights Initiative are San Francisco State University and Foothill Community College, under the deeply collaborative direction of PIs Tanner and Schinske (see Biosketches), other organizational partners will be key collaborators on different phases of the effort. Below, we describe each organizational partner briefly, as well as their anticipated role in the effort.

California Academy of Sciences

Founded in 1853, the California Academy of Sciences is an esteemed scientific and educational institution “dedicated to exploring, explaining, and sustaining life on Earth.” Among the largest natural history museums in the world, the Academy is a national and international leader in public education with a special emphasis on pre-college science education. In recent years, the Academy’s education department has become particularly well-regarded for its innovations in supporting K-12 teachers in understanding and implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), providing professional development workshops for teachers, as well as a highly used online resource for school district personnel and other science education organizations, “NGSS Demystified: A Toolkit for Training Teachers.” PI Tanner is an elected Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, and communicates regularly with the institution’s education staff. For the Scientist Spotlights Initiative, PIs Tanner and Schinske will work closely with the Academy’s education staff in all three phases of the project to maximize alignment of the developed Scientist Spotlights with the NGSS. Additionally, we will partner with the Academy to disseminate the resulting Scientist Spotlights Collection to the Academy’s teacher networks through their existing programs. We anticipate that one Academy education staff member will serve on the Advisory Board each year (see Letters).

San Francisco Unified School District and SF Bay Area Schools

Serving ~55,000 students in 136 schools supported by ~4,000 classroom teachers, SFUSD is a pioneer in developing programs to increase access and equity for its diverse population of students. Enrolling a student population of whom 55% qualify for free and reduced lunch, SFUSD is incredibly diverse. While a quarter of SFUSD students are English Language Learners, there is no majority ethnicity with a student distribution of 35% Asian, 27% Latino, 14% White, 7% Black, and 5% Filipino/Pacific Islanders. For almost four decades, SFUSD has pioneered innovations in science education with San Francisco Bay Area community partners, including NSF-funded Local Systemic Change Initiatives, extensive teachers professional development initiatives, and a variety of partnerships increase student access to science and scientists. PI Tanner has collaborated with SFUSD, its teachers, and its students for over two decades, including on the previous NIH SEPA Spectrum Project and the ongoing SFSU biology service-learning course, Biol 652: Science Partners in K-12 Education (SPIKE). PI Schinke began his career as a SEPAL NSF-funded GK-12 Fellow working in an SFUSD middle school. Additionally, we will partner with teachers in other SF Bay Area schools that serve diverse populations of students, such as Eastside College Preparatory School, which is near Foothill Community College (see Letters). For the Scientist Spotlights Initiative, PIs Tanner and Schinske will work closely with teachers and administrators in SFUSD and other SF Bay Area schools  in all three phases of the project to maximize input on the development, implementation, and assessment of Scientist Spotlights. Additionally, we will partner with SFUSD to disseminate the resulting Scientist Spotlights Collection extensively to its teacher through their existing professional development programs. We anticipate involving one or more administrators from SFUSD and other SF Bay Area schools on the Advisory Board each year.

Story Collider

Since 2010, Story Collider has brought true, personal stories about science to life through their story telling shows and popular online podcast. The Story Collider website ( now features over 250 true stories by scientists, showcasing the sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes humorous paths that scientific careers and scientific research can take. Central to their mission is to seek out stories from scientists representing diverse and counter-stereotypical backgrounds. Story Collider podcasts were often featured as the scientist biographical resources in Scientist Spotlights developed by PI Schinske for community college students. For example, the sample Spotlight on Brion Randolph in Section 3.2 includes a Story Collider resource. Story Collider is excited to collaborate in The Scientist Spotlights Initiative to provide content to service learning students developing Spotlights, link to the Scientist Spotlight Collection on their website, and feature research results stemming from the initiative on their page.

Science Friday

For 25 years, Science Friday has introduced top scientists to public radio listeners with the goals of inspiring curiosity, spreading science literacy, and making science fun. Beyond Science Friday’s weekly public radio shows, they additionally produce award-winning digital videos, original web articles, and educational resources for teachers and informal educators. Science Friday is especially interested in how media can be used to build interest in science among young people. After learning of PI Schinske’s research regarding Scientist Spotlights, Science Friday was enthusiastic about collaborating to further that work. They have offered to provide media for use in Scientist Spotlights and create highlight reels or thematic collections as needed. Science Friday will additionally be a key partner in disseminating results and products of The Scientist Spotlights Initiative.