Report on Reports

7. Investing in Human Potential... 1993 - AAAS



…careful reading of recent reports finds that the special needs of a growing population of students for whom English is a second language are not addressed. Perhaps the absence of discussion of this issue is just an oversight or that these proposals are broad in scope and cannot include detailed attention to ‘special interest’ groups. Whatever the reasons, this situation must be remedied if the goal of reform is to improve science instruction for all students and to increase minority participation in the sciences.

The role of language in the institutional process– and related issues such as culture and learning styles– must be taken into consideration with an increasingly multilingual and multicultural student population. And ways to address such matters in the sciences do not have to be invented de novo. In others words, considerable information is already available which deals with appropriate science instruction for college students who are still learning English; however, it is not found in places where college science faculty or science education ‘reformers’ normally look.

– Teaching Science to Language Minority Students. Judith W. Rosenthal, 1996.


To academic institutions and departments

  • Examine both the amount and type of financial aid received by science and engineering students by racial/ethnic group, by sex, and by physical disability. In addition, special consideration should be given to students who carry a heavy load of laboratory course work which requires more in- and out-of-class laboratory time. The nature of the science/engineering curriculum may make it difficult for students to put in adequate paid-work hours to supplement their financial aid.

  • Reduce the rigidity of the science and engineering curriculum to allow “undecided” students, or those in other major areas of study, to switch into science or engineering studies.

  • Undertake surveys of the accessibility and climate of your campus. Those institutions that have already conducted general access studies should initiate specific studies to examine access to science/engineering classrooms, laboratories, and equipment and intervention programs.

  • Mount aggressive efforts to recruit and develop female and minority graduate students and postdoctoral students, and provide mentoring programs and general support for new female and minority faculty.

  • Monitor carefully the progress of students, especially female and minority students and those with physical disabilities, to determine where attrition is occurring. Further, careful analysis may be warranted to determine the causes of those losses.