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Minorities are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce, post-secondary STEM education, and show high academic attrition rates. Academic performance and retention improve when culturally relevant support is provided. The interface of Western science and Indigenous science provides an opportunity for bridging this divide. We hypothesized that there would be regional (U.S.A. vs. Canada) differences amongst post-secondary students regarding these variables: perceptions of traditional Elders as STEM co-educators; interest in STEM; and self-identity as a scientist. We conducted a short-term longitudinal pilot study of an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional, and cross-cultural STEM course in the spring of 2013. This online STEM course was concurrently offered at mainstream and tribal universities in the U.S.A. and Canada. Pre- and post-course surveys were administered to participants (n=11). The outcome measures of interest were assessed, and group differences were tested by ANOVA (SPSS 21 software). Due to the limited sample size, the statistical power was low. We found no statistically significant results upon data analysis. In regards to region, however, we found that Canadian students showed a stronger trend to believe that traditional Elders are appropriate as post-secondary STEM co-educators as compared to U.S. students (p=.31). Students from the U.S. showed a weak trend to be more interested in STEM fields than Canadian students (p=.52). Finally, U.S. students showed a weak trend to self-identify as scientists more so than Canadian students (p=.77). In regards to race/ethnicity, we found that non-White students tended to consider traditional Elders appropriate post-secondary STEM co-educators (p=0.45); that White students tended to be more interested in STEM fields than non-White students (p=0.80); and that non-White students tended to self-identify as a scientist more so than White students (p=0.31). Despite the lack of statistically significant results from this pilot study, the observed trends suggest a need for more research. Do Indigenous science Elder educators merit involvement in novel pedagogical approaches and delivery modalities to reach minority students and to increase students’ interest in STEM? Next, we will conduct a quasi-experiment with a larger sample of university students, to assess the impact of traditional Elders as STEM co-educators in an online STEM course at tribal and mainstream universities in the U.S.A. and Canada.


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Race and Ethnicity | Science and Mathematics Education | Science and Technology Studies


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