Engaging Student Voice: Learnings from the Coordination Hub’s Twitter Chat

By Daniela Saucedo and Pradipti Bhatta

Leadership and Communication is one of the five elements of Collaborative Infrastructure which is a tenet of the NSF INCLUDES initiative. The INCLUDES National Network

explores questions such as how to co-create alignment and awareness and engage your core audiences. Engaging student voices is an important part of this process. Hub_Student_Voice_Twitter_Chat_2.png

On May 29th, the NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub hosted a #INCLUDESChat on Twitter highlighting the importance of incorporating student voice in broadening participation in STEM. We were joined by our wonderful guest presenters who helped guide the conversation:
  • First2Network @First2Network
  • National Girls Collaborative Project @ngcproject
  • Joanna Burt-Kinderman, Math Instructional Coach, First2Network @Ms_JBK
  • Hannah Carreon, Student Social Media Director, First2Network @carreonhnn
  • Jhenai Chandler, Director, Florida-Caribbean Louis Stokes Regional Center of Excellence (FL-C LSRCE) @MrsJChand
  • Leslie Goodyear, Co-PI, NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub @lkg4
  • Linda Kekelis, Consultant, STEM Next Opportunity Fund @LindaKekelis
  • Chrissy Stachl, NSF Fellow, PhD candidate, Department of Chemistry, UC Berkeley @ChrissyStachl
  • Ivory Toldson, Co-PI, NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub @toldson

Along with our guest presenters, various National Network members and others working to improve diversity and inclusion in STEM joined the chat. Participants responded to a series of 6 questions, sharing experiences and knowledge from their project work. Here are some of the responses they shared:

Q1. How can we best engage students in our broadening participation in STEM work? Can you share a strategy that helps you engage student voice?

  • Sue Ann Heatherly @QuietZoner: One technique the students have used is to reflect on a problem and record their thoughts, and then divide up the responses and communicate them collectively. This removes a barrier for some in telling people in power some hard truths.
  • Jhenai Chandler @MrsJChand: For non-student facing research centers such as @FLC_LSRCE, it is important to include students in your research development process. We request and incorporate student input into any research instrument, survey or intervention before distribution. #INCLUDESchat #MindsetsforSTEM
  • Linda Kekelis @LindaKekelis: It‘s not a one-size fits all. Start by asking kids what interests them. Then act upon their input. If you can’t put all their ideas into practice, explain why. #INCLUDESChat @NSFINCLUDESHub @STEMNext
  • NGCProject @ngcproject: Three years ago, NGCP founded the Girls Advisory Board -- a group of young women from across the country who are passionate about closing the gender gap in STEM. Since then, our student board members have used their voices to influence thousands of their peers #INCLUDESchat
  • Joanna BurtKinderman @Ms_JBK: For example, all requests for funds from network members (to make changes, to attend conferences) are reviewed and approved by student directors #INCLUDESchat

Q2. Can you give an example of when a student's input changed the way you do or talk about your work? Students, can you give an example of when your input made a strong impact in a project/work?

  • Jhenai Chandler @MrsJChand: @FLC_LSRCE had a set idea for growth mindset interventions for URMs in STEM. Psychologist @OmidFotuhi urged the importance of student voice in intervention development. We then conducted student focus groups- they totally changed our intervention direction.
    • Jhenai Chandler @MrsJChand: @FLC_LSRCE originally focused only on growth mindset. Turns out our campus partners do a great job at this, but students indicated they wish faculty fostered agency among URM students in STEM. We are now focusing on adaptive mindsets that promote resilience. In addition, @FLC_LSRCE is developing interventions that equip faculty with strategies to normalize and promote help-seeking behaviors among URMs in STEM and encourage students to develop and maintain social support networks
  • NGCProject @ngcproject: Thanks to our Girls Advisory Board’s input, we are now investigating internet-free learning opportunities for students living in rural or ‘digital desert’ areas #INCLUDESchat
  • Tyler Davis @ItsTylerDavis: Visits to the WV State Capitol by the students of @First2Network left strong impressions on legislators who are now more aware and thoughtful on key issues. Students speaking for themselves made a stronger impact than being spoken for. #INCLUDESChat
    • Tyler Davis @ItsTylerDavis: Students along with @First2Network leadership empower each other to speak their truth. The students are experts on the issues and know the change that needs to be made. For legislators, we show the impact and importance of our work. Many are honored to hear student voices.
  • Snehal Bhakta @Snehalstocks: We asked Ss why their interest in #STEM went down...they needed more opps. So in conjunction w/ Ss we created the BLAST League to provide more opportunities after school, nights, weekends & summer. BLAST = Building Lifelong Achievement in STEM & Technology. #Includeschat

Q3. Do you invite student input in designing or adapting courses or programs? How do they provide input? As a student, how often are you asked for input in course or program design?

  • Ivory Achebe Toldson @toldson: Yes, students are content experts on the daily life and circumstances of students. We should treat them as such. #INCLUDESchat
  • Linda Kekelis @LindaKekelis: @techbridgegirls pilot new lessons in summer and invite girls’ input through surveys and focus groups. We were explicit in telling girls our lessons were works-in-progress and their feedback was important. #INCLUDESChat @NSFINCLUDESHub @STEMNext
  • Joanna BurtKinderman @Ms_JBK: @First2Network students are at the table for all stages of program design. We bring our student leaders to every leadership opportunity - from this chat to the NSF mothership for our reverse site visit.    #INCLUDESchat
    • Linda Kekelis @LindaKekelis: It's also helpful to bring students back periodically to check in. Programs may need redesign and youth can help inform this work. @First2Network #INCLUDESChat @NSFINCLUDESHub
      • Joanna BurtKinderman @Ms_JBK: No program is as good as it could be.  And it's an inherently encouraging message that the work we're all here to do is improvement, and finding failure is part of that journey.

Q4. How have you incorporated student voice into the evaluation of your broadening participation in STEM work? 

  • Caitlin Howley @CaitlinHowley: Just as @First2Network engages student voice, so too does the evaluation. As does anyone in our Network, they respond to all data collection requests as full members--surveys, focus groups, etc. And of course we share evaluation findings and solicit their reactions to them.
    • Caitlin Howley @CaitlinHowley: In addition, they'll help us review the program logic model, and eventually we hope to engage interested students in designing instruments, collecting and analyzing data, and--most importantly--in sense-making! #INCLUDESChat
  • Chrissy Stachl @ChrissyStachl: All the assessment I’ve done of my department climate has been based on surveys, which get vetted and improved by at least a few grad students, faculty and postdocs. You can’t gather useful data if you don’t involve the population you are trying to serve! #INCLUDESChat
  • NGCProject @ngcproject: In addition to the NGCP Girls Advisory Board, we have a student representative (@OliviaPavcoG) on our Champion’s Board. We also pilot potential curriculums with various community programs in order to collect feedback from youth participants. #INCLUDESChat @NSFINCLUDESHub
  • Leslie Goodyear@lkg4: Involving students/young people in evaluation can take so many forms, like some that have been highlighted already. How can we ensure that they generate evaluation questions and drive recommendations? @NSFINCLUDESHub @EDCtweets #INCLUDESChat
    • Caitlin Howley @CaitlinHowley: Fantastic question! In @First2Network students serve on the project leadership team and, just as all members do, are invited to reflect on what we learn from evaluation.

Q5. How can our work create an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their voice? 

  • First2 Network @First2Network: Fostering working relationships with students that are based on trust is vital to maintaining an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their voice. Genuine inclusion is the key to true engagement. #INCLUDESChat
  • Ivory Achebe Toldson @toldson: We need to explain our research not only to those in academia but also to students, making it accessible to those it most impacts. It is incumbent upon us to create the platform for students to express themselves regarding our research and its impact for them. #INCLUDESChat
  • Linda Kekelis @LindaKekelis: We can model sharing our ideas and being vulnerable. We can celebrate our glorious goofs and works in progress. Let’s practice @reshmasaujani‘s mantra Brave, Not Perfect. #INCLUDESChat @NSFINCLUDESHub @STEMNext
  • Chrissy Stachl @ChrissyStachl: It's been super helpful for us to ground every single conversation in community values. We project these throughout the duration of department-wide discussions & brainstorming sessions! #INCLUDESChat
    • Chrissy Stachl @ChrissyStachl: We've also started hosting diversity & inclusion focus groups, where students and faculty discuss challenging/stigmatized topics of conversation. Faculty have expressed enthusiasm & gratitude at hearing student experiences #INCLUDESChat
  • Tyler Davis @ItsTylerDavis: We always make deliberate efforts to have students at the table. As a student in the early stages of @First2Network I was invited to the first conference at @SRI_Intl with several other @NSFINCLUDESHub pilot groups. First2 was the only one with a student in the room #INCLUDESChat

Q6. With so much learning moving online, what tools have you found most useful in connecting with students? How do students prefer to share their thoughts and input?

  • NGCProject @ngcproject: Our best tip for connecting with students online -- meet them where they are! We host our Girls Advisory Board meetings on Instagram Live because 1) our members are already comfortable with that platform 2) they regularly check it. #INCLUDESChat
  • Hannah Carreon @carreonhnn: Anything that resembles face-to-face contact. Students have been stripped of their campus experience and a friendly face is such a mood booster. We miss our friends but we miss those who make us better, too.
    • Hannah Carreon @carreonhnn: We enjoy being able to share our stories, whether on social media or speaking opportunities. It’s a nice reminder of why we’re doing what we’re doing. It’s also a boost of confidence to see the support of peers and strangers. #INCLUDESchat
  • Snehal Bhakta @Snehalstocks: We use the idea of "bursts" of energy to engage/connect. Use techniques that take 5-15 mins, then break for 15-30 mins + repeat. Examples include creating a digital mosaic, hosting Smoothie Socials during the summer, and using social media like Insta Live. #INCLUDESchat
  • Joanna BurtKinderman @Ms_JBK: In @First2Network, we have to communicate in all ways, always. Parts of WV have no cell access, many students have no broadband.  We use every possible mode and campus-based smaller networks of students who reach out to one another.  Access is an equity issue. #INCLUDESchat

Resources shared during the chat:

Check out the full compilation of Tweets or this Twitter chat report to read a full account of all the responses to the questions listed above!