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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning

 
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Research question

Are there differences in the awarding gap between STEMM students and Arts & Humanities students?

 

Project team

  • James Simkins, undergraduate student reading Chemical Engineering
  • Natanim Fekadu, undergraduate student reading History and Politics

 

Project report

Report: STEMM vs Arts & Humanities Project (PDF)

 

Abstract

This project aimed to investigate differences in awarding gaps between Black British students studying STEMM and Arts & Humanities subjects, in response to a perceived difference in the educational experiences encountered by students in STEMM subjects. There was a shared understanding amongst student co-researchers that there would be fewer opportunities for racist encounters in the delivery of the subject content, and more practical assessment tasks that do not require subjective critical arguments with less opportunity therefore for unconscious bias to affect assessment marking.

The key method of data collection for this project was a survey distributed to Black British student committees within Cambridge, which asked for student perspectives on the awarding gap in STEMM disciplines and the identification of any factors that might impact students' academic performance. This was followed by an analysis of the awarding gap data currently available on the Exam Results Analytics dashboard, comparing the gaps course by course.

The survey found that the majority of student respondents agreed with the perception that there would be narrower awarding gaps for STEMM subjects. However, the initial (limited) findings from the Exam Results Analytics dashboard surprisingly contradicted this, indicating a similar attainment gap within STEMM subjects as within Arts and Humanities subjects.

This was unexpected given that many possible explanations for awarding gaps referred to poor handling of sensitive issues relating to race, while the subject matter of STEMM courses is considered 'neutral'. The preliminary findings from this project suggest that more research is needed to explore the educational experiences of STEMM students and what interventions might address their awarding gaps.