A Review of Themes and Promising Practices in STEM-based Work in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

In 2020, Zakir J. Suleman, with support from members of the Skylight team, conducted a systematic literature review to explore current conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in STEM education. The review provides an overview of the systemic barriers to equitable STEM participation and highlights practices for improving the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority (URM) students. The review can be used as a discussion piece for departments and/or programs to reflect upon their current practices and to develop comprehensive approaches to address EDI in STEM education.

Science identity: A key site of intervention

The development of a strong science identity emerged as a key theme for improving the retention and academic success of all STEM students, but was especially pronounced for URM students. Science identity is the extent to which a student self-identifies with the attributes, traits, and qualities that are commonly associated with what it means to be a scientist (Osueguera et al., 2019). Despite its importance, science identity is often a missing factor in STEM programs and as such, should be a targeted objective for EDI work at the classroom, program, and institutional level. 

Four practices to improve science identity, recruitment, and retention

The review identified four key practices that can improve the science identity, recruitment, and retention of URM students:

  1. Create community spaces for URM students that enable validation and growth. 
  2. Provide URM students with opportunities for meaningful undergraduate research experiences in which they can learn, perform, and be recognized for having the skills of a scientist.
  3. Create opportunities for authentic and responsive mentorship opportunities with students’ faculty and peers. 
  4. Stage specific interventions targeting systematic disadvantages faced by URM students and unconscious biases of faculty. 

developing science identity

These four practices help to address the systemic inequities faced by URM students and work to strengthen students’ self-efficacy, sense of belonging, and skill development within STEM. Providing and engaging students’ in these meaningful practices are significant steps in improving the retention of URM students and enriching their overall learning experience. 

If you'd like to learn more about this review or if you'd like Skylight to help facilitate conversations about EDI best practices, please contact us at skylight@science.ubc.ca


Oseguera, L., Park, H. J., De Los Rios, M. J., Aparicio, E. M., & Johnson, R. (2019). Examining the Role of Scientific Identity in Black Student Retention in a STEM Scholar Program. The Journal of Negro Education, 88(3), 229–248.