African-Americans have made many advances socially in the 20th century, from segregated schools to an African-American president of the United States. Through all of the great accomplishments of African-Americans over the years remain a vast educational and professional chasm to the field of science.
Here, in the 21st century, we continue to see a shortage of African-American science teachers, and consequently an extreme shortage of African-American students going into the hard science courses or science careers. Smaller proportions of African-American students tend to complete advanced science course compared with whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders. (National Science Board 2004) As a concerned educator, I desired to change the status of black students in the field of science.
The first years of my professional experience as an educator were spent teaching physics and mathematics in the inner city with predominately low socioeconomic, African-American students. My motivation for teaching in that environment came from my desire to make a difference in black students’ achievement in the hard sciences, and to give them exposure without turning them away from careers in science or engineering. Mostly, I wanted to let them know that it was okay to be an African-American and like science. From my personal accounts I recognized an elevation in student attention but no significant increase in achievement. I began to wonder if I was making any significant impact. This intrigued me deeply and inspired a study to examine the part a science teacher’s ethnicity impacts the motivation of African-American students to take courses in the hard sciences. My intentions were to identify specific areas of influence African-American science teachers have on African-American science students. In a future blog entry I will share some of my findings and their implications.