Embracing diversity in the changing climate of STEM higher education – transforming teacher beliefs


  • Lisa Godinho School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne VIC 3010, Australia
  • Reva Ramiah Faculty of Science and Engineering, Curtin University, Perth WA 6102, Australia


STEM academic identity, diversity, equity, inclusion, inclusive teaching, implicit bias


Efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity in STEM higher education have been ongoing for over a decade; however, the participation and success of traditionally underrepresented cohorts in these fields still fall short of national aspirations. Even for women in STEM, desired outcomes remain elusive (Australia Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, 2021).

This presentation shares the findings of our research, which employed a questionnaire survey and interviews to explore the perspectives of STEM educators in Australian universities. The survey gathered information on educator perceptions of barriers to student success, while the interviews delved deeper into the beliefs and practices that shape their instructional behaviours. Our study sought to identify potential gaps and biases in educators' perspectives that may hinder the full embrace of diverse student populations.

Whilst participants generally demonstrated great empathy for their non-traditional student cohorts, not surprisingly, the research findings revealed that educators often perceived student attributes such as inadequate high school preparation, prioritization of work over study, mental health concerns, lack of motivation, and intelligence as barriers to student success in STEM higher education. These findings are similar to findings reported by Naylor, Baik, and James (2013). Importantly, this suggests that some educators may harbor concerns about including a broader diversity of students, viewing it as a potential compromise on educational standards.

We argue that educators' beliefs significantly influence their instructional behaviors, thus impacting student learning outcomes (Turner et al., 2009). It is crucial to recognise that these beliefs are often deeply ingrained and implicitly shaped through years of personal experiences with education (Pajares, 1992). In this presentation, we will discuss a model to engage educators to recognise and challenge their existing biases or preconceptions they may hold and, in this way, transform their teaching practices to better embrace the diversity of their students.


Australia Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (2021) STEM equity monitor: data highlights 2021, Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, retrieved 17 March 2022, https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/stem-equity-monitor.

Naylor, R., Baik, C., & James, R. (2013) A critical interventions framework for advancing equity in Australian higher education. Report prepared for the Department of Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. Centre for the Study of Higher Education, The University of Melbourne.

Pajares, M. F. (1992). Teachers’ Beliefs and Educational Research: Cleaning Up a Messy Construct. Review of Educational Research, 62(3), 307–332. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543062003307

Turner, J. C., Christensen, A., & Meyer, D. K. (2009) Teachers' beliefs about student learning and motivation. In Saha, L.J., Dworkin, A. G. (Eds) International handbook of research on teachers and teaching (pp.361-371), Springer, Boston.

Author Biography

Reva Ramiah, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Curtin University, Perth WA 6102, Australia

English Language Development Coordinator