Strategies for Culturally Responsive Online Teaching in STEM

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session Blended Equity and Inclusion

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

The instructor-centered method adopted by the STEM field with its emphasis on Eurocentric values is not always conducive to addressing achievement barriers for diverse students in the online classroom. This session will focus on how integration strategies using Culturally Responsive Online Teaching in STEM will enhance engagement for diverse students.


I am faculty member at Madison College working in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL).
Rafael Perez is a non instructional faculty at Madison College. Rafael earned a master's degree from the University of Puerto Rico.

Extended Abstract

Culturally Responsive Teaching pedagogy in the online environment is key to maintaining student engagement, acquiring knowledge about the course content, developing critical thinking skills, promoting a sense of belonging and community, and succeeding in their academic and professional careers. For educators, integrating a culturally responsive teaching curriculum in online STEM courses is a challenging task, especially during the  COVID-19 Pandemic, where many institutions have transitioned to the online setting.

In a traditional face-to-face class modality, students of color encounter barriers to successfully completing course work in the STEM field. Estrada et al. (2016) state that according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), African-American students are the most likely ethnic group to leave STEM majors by dropping out of college (29%) or switching to a non-STEM degree (36%). There are relatively few reports of institutional-level tracking of STEM performance and persistence and fewer that provide analysis by ethnicity. According to Cullinane (2009), research indicates that lack of interest is not the primary cause of achievement gaps of underrepresented minorities in STEM but that it is attributed to academic preparation and economic factors.

Typically, online instructors embrace a traditional teaching model in which the learning environment is considered a culture-free zone (Kumi-Yeboah 2018). When instructors either ignore or dismiss the importance of cultural diversity, the students’ ability to become successful learners are minimized (Kumi-Yeboah 2018). This session will challenge the assumption of depleted cultural capital for students of color. Rather, this session will explore a new theoretical framework and its application to online teaching practices. The proposal will examine the integration of strategies for culturally responsive teaching to maximize student learning in the online classroom for STEM courses.

Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995) introduced theory of culturally relevant teaching, which she defined as an instructor using the experiences of diverse students as a pedagogical tool. Ladson-Billings (1995) built her framework on a three-leg stool of academic success, cultural competency and social awareness to challenge social inequality.

Several years later, Geneva Gay (2010) expanded the theory of culturally relevant teaching to construct a culturally responsive teaching model. Similar to Ladson-Billings , Gay (2010) contends instructors should acquire data on the cultural practices of diverse student groups to enhance learning and create a positive learning environment while at the same time maintain high academic standards. A point of distinction between Gay (2010) and Ladson-Billings (1995) is the recommendation from Gay (2010) that instructors revise the course curriculum to promote equity in the classroom for all students.

Curriculum revision is a labor-intensive process for many higher education instructors. Combining both curriculum revision and cultural diversity competency will be a challenging endeavor for many instructors. Indeed,  Kumi-Yeboah (2018) found in his research that online  instructors  did not promote cross-cultural collaborative activities in their online classes. Cross-cultural collaborative activities were described as group  work,  self-introductions  and  cultural awareness  activity. Kumi-Yeboah (2018) recommends educational institutions offer online instructors training to promote culturally responsive teaching in the online classroom.

In order to accomplish a culturally responsive teaching pedagogical method in the online classroom for STEM courses, the authors propose a Culturally Responsive Online Teaching Model (CROTM) expanding on the scholarship of Ladson-Billings (1995) and Gay (2010). The process to develop a CROTM model includes seven features: one, prejudice reduction; two,  academic success; three, knowledge building during course delivery; four,  course curriculum revision; five, social justice; six, an online classroom community; and seven, the appropriation of technology to facilitate an interactive communication space for students of color.

During this session, the presenters will describe CROTM and its theoretical application to a sample Earth Science lesson on Water Quality and Ground Water Contamination to make it culturally relevant.

The presenters will modify an Earth Science lesson on Water Quality and Ground Water Contamination, and then apply a new theoretical framework by implementing the following CROTM strategies:

  • Taking active steps to reduce prejudice:
  • Maintaining high academic standards:
  • Facilitating knowledge during course delivery: Instead of just providing the water quality data near the College, the instructor can provide the resources for students to find the water quality data for their own neighborhoods.
  • Integrating diverse experiences into the course curriculum:
  • Calling attention to social inequity in society:
  • Creating a sense of community in the online classroom:.
  • Introducing technology to aide knowledge construction and interactional currency of diverse students in the online classroom:

The session  will be interactive and the presentation will include the following elements:

  • Powerpoint slides and visual imagery for discussion and activity.
  • Live online polling questions to solicit information from the participants.
  • Group activities requiring participation via chat messaging and posting comments on Padlet.


Work Cited

Cullinane J, Leewater LH. 2009. Diversifying the STEM Pipeline: The Model Replication Institutions Program, Washington, DC: Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Estrada, Mica., Burnett, Myra., Campbell, Andrew. G., Denetclaw, Wilfred. F., Gutiérrez, Carlos. G., Hurtado, Sylvia., Gilbert, John., Matsui, John., Okpodu, Camellia M., Robinson, Joan T., Summers, Michael F., Werner-Washburne, Maggie., Zavala, MariaElena., and Marstelle, Pat. 2016. “Improving underrepresented Minority student persistence in STEM.” CBE—Life Sciences Education, 15(3), es5. doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-01-0038

Gay, Geneva. 2010. Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.

Kumi-Yeboah, Alex. 2018. “Designing a cross-cultural collaborative online learning framework for online instructors.” Online Learning, 22(4), 181-201.

Ladson-Billings, Gloria. 1995. “Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.” American Educational Research Journal.  32( 3): 465-491.