First Advisor

Holt, Emily A.

First Committee Member

Keenan, Susan M.

Second Committee Member

Parrish, Jennifer C.

Third Committee Member

Weinrich, Melissa L.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Document Type


Date Created



College of Natural and Health Sciences, Biological Sciences, Biological Sciences Student Work

Embargo Date



How can Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) faculty create environments where students do not feel marginalized? Changes are necessary to address the historically exclusive climate, systemic oppressive classroom policies, and practices dominated by White, patriarchal, Eurocentric perspectives in many STEM classrooms. Faculty incorporating approaches and practices documented in the literature across time and multiple STEM disciplines can create equitable and inclusive (EI) classrooms. However, the challenge for faculty is consolidating the information to identify fundamental elements necessary for establishing EI classrooms. By synthesizing and cataloging components found in the literature, following a qualitative meta-synthesis framework, the purpose of Project 1 of this dissertation is to explore how higher education practitioners defined EI environments and how they encouraged faculty to explore pedagogies and facilitate EI changes. The following research questions guided this study: What practices describing EI practices are defined in the literature? What EI practices are most commonly defined in the literature? One outcome of Project 1 of this dissertation was the recommendation that STEM instructors should revise their curriculum to represent varying student identities to create inclusive spaces. To promote inclusivity, STEM faculty can deconstruct curricula to represent and normalize multiple student identities. While frameworks of curriculum deconstruction exist and emphasize instructors' reflective practices and recommend specific curricula changes, they do not detail the process and challenges faculty face in the implementation process. Thus, the purpose of Project 2, a qualitative case study, filled this gap by describing how one higher education biology instructor (i.e., n =1) made equity-minded curricular reform focusing on gender identity. The following research questions guided this study: How does a biology instructor deconstruct dominant narratives within their curriculum? What were the challenges and successes of this process? What lessons can we learn that might help future instructors as they embark upon this process themselves? This project followed the process of one instructor changing their curriculum to become more inclusive, summarizing their reflections on the changes made during this process. Further, student perspectives can be an essential viewpoint for faculty changing their instructional strategies. Student perspectives can aid with the changes faculty are making by providing reflections about the impact of classroom factors on student sense of belonging and achievement. However, the remaining gap in the literature is acquiring student perspectives, specifically about equity and inclusion changes in STEM classrooms. Therefore, the purpose of Project 3 leveraged data from Project 1 and investigated student perspectives about EI classroom approaches and practices. Project 3 employed Q Methodology, by asking students (n = 298) to rank classroom applications/practices on their importance and which practices were found in STEM classes they were taking. The following research questions guided this study: What inclusive classroom practices and approaches do undergraduate biology students rank as most and least important to their success? What trends exist in biology student preferences regarding types of inclusive classroom practices? This project aims to encourage more higher education STEM faculty to explore EI pedagogies with the impact of student perspectives and outlines how these can be incorporated. Therefore, the overall aims of this research included exploring equitable and inclusive teaching practices in higher education science classrooms, the role of instructors in curriculum change, and student perceptions of equity and inclusion in the classroom.

Abstract Format



218 pages

Local Identifiers


Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the author.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 13, 2026