EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Building confidence in STEM students through breaking (unseen) barriers

Philip Heron1 and Jamie Williams2
Philip Heron and Jamie Williams
  • 1University of Toronto Scarborough, DPES, Canada (
  • 2Spectrum First Education, Leeds, UK

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects have historically struggled to be inclusive and accessible to students from diverse backgrounds. The field of geoscience, in particular, has also had challenges in diversity with respect to staff and student recruitment. The consequence of non-inclusive practices still propagates today, with certain demographics not engaging in STEM activities. As a result, there needs to be conscious efforts to adopt equity, diversity, and inclusive (EDI) initiatives for subjects such as geoscience to grow. In this submission, we outline the steps we have taken to break down known (and unknown) barriers to education in the teaching of a science outreach course to a diverse student body. Our outreach course, Think Like A Scientist, has been running in a number of English prisons since 2019, and starts in Canada in 2023. This course won the EGU Outreach Award in 2019. Although the programme is tailored to the restrictive prison environment, the application of its core principles to education are fundamental EDI practices that could be beneficial to a wide audience. In this submission, we outline our reasoning for specific pedagogical choices in the classroom when working with students that have low confidence in STEM education, and we highlight the need for engagement that is not only relatable, accessible, and inclusive but also offers encouragement. An accompanying publication of this work was published in Geoscience Communication in 2022 (

How to cite: Heron, P. and Williams, J.: Building confidence in STEM students through breaking (unseen) barriers, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-8581,, 2023.