I was thrilled that my interviewers for the PhD thought me capable of doing this, and humbled to be awarded the Rosalind Driver Scholarship. It helps me not only to afford to study for the PhD but also allows me to continue to teach at my school, on a part-time basis. I started my PhD in October 2021, with the title: ‘Investigating issues of inclusion/exclusion in secondary school science education, using Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and other non-cisgender-heterosexual (LGBTI+) perspectives.’
I hope to survey LGBTI+ youth on their views on science education. I am interested to establish their sense of ‘belonging’ which has been found to be related to retention. Currently I plan to adapt the work of Rainey et al. (2018) who examined the intersections of race and gender with students’ self-reported sense of belonging.
By sense of belonging, I mean “students’ sense of being accepted, valued, included, and encouraged by others (teachers and peers) in the academic classroom setting and of feeling oneself to be an important part of the life and activity of the class” (Goodenow 1993, p. 80). Strayhorn (2012) has shown that a sense of belonging can have a significant impact on academic achievement, persistence and retention, and these impacts are frequently more pronounced for students from socially marginalised groups.
Conducting questionnaires and interviews with LGBTI+ and non-LGBTI+ students from diverse backgrounds from a range of secondary schools and sixth form colleges, I aim to study the experiences students indicate as contributing either to their continuing with science education or leaving science education for another field. Specifically, I currently aim to address the research questions:
- To what extent do LGBTI+ youth (16-18-year-olds) report they feel they belong in their science field and what reasons do they give for belonging and not belonging?
- How does sense of belonging in science compare for LGBTI+ students who persist in science A-levels and those who leave?
- How does this sense of belonging compare with non-LGBTI+ students who have either continued in a science field and those who have not?
I am in the very early stages of my doctoral study and the details are not yet finalised. As I read and learn more this doctoral project will be subject to change so that it can better address the settled aims and confirmed research questions. Ultimately, my goal is to gain a greater understanding of why there is persistent underrepresentation of LGBTI+ people in science sectors, which the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM has extensively documented in its latest reports (see below in the bibliography).
I am very grateful to CRESTEM within the School of Education, Communications and Society at King’s for giving me the opportunity to study this PhD and for the platform to share with you this fantastic journey I have been on and am continuing.
APPG. (2020). Inquiry on Equity in STEM education: Final Report. London: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM.
APPG. (2021). Equity in the STEM workforce. London: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM.
Goodenow, C. (1993). Classroom belonging among early adolescent students: relationships to motivation and achievement. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 13(1), 21-43.
Rainey, K., Dancy, M., Mickelson, R., Stearns, E., & Moller, S. (2018). Race and Gender Differences in How Sense of Belonging Influences Decisions to Major in STEM. International Journal in STEM Education, 5(10), 1-14.
Stayhorn, T. (2012). College students' sense of belonging: a key to educational success for all students. New York: Routledge.