Students enter laboratories and classrooms with a variety of learning approaches, communication styles, ways of demonstrating success, and goals. When you create a sense of community and provide multiple ways to learn, communicate, succeed, and connect new ideas to goals, you are more likely to engage a broader range of students.
- Think of your lab groups as small groups of students through which cross-cultural communication can be practiced and enhanced.
- Give students opportunities to learn more about each other. Ask them to share information about their majors, goals for the course, and future plans before they begin working together. This can ease academic interactions and begin to build trust.
- In addition to safety procedures, set norms for interaction.
- Provide opportunities for lab groups to reflect on their interactions. At the end of each lab, consider asking students to reply to these questions: What behaviors from yourself or your partner(s) enhanced your experience with a particular lab and the understanding of the material? What did you do well in your group this week?
- Pay careful attention to lab group dynamics and intervene if some students become excluded from full participation and/or if more assertive students begin to dominate. Give students group assessment forms to evaluate each other.
- Remember that due to differences in their educational, cultural, and generational backgrounds, students have varying understanding of STEM norms and practices. Remember to name, instruct, and give students time to practice specific STEM habits (e.g., explaining and defending one’s results by referring to relevant data and scientific principles).
- Provide time for students to learn from lecture, as well as work independently and in groups.
- Give students different ways to express what they have learned. Consider informally and formally assessing student learning by asking them to talk, draw figures, refer to graphs, and write.