TILE - Toolkit for Inclusive Learning Environments

STEM Examples

Floating Green Bacteria This page has examples that could possibly be used in various science, technology, engineering and math classrooms in order to foster healthy conversations on issues of diversity and inclusion. All examples should be used with careful consideration of the various other factors that go into creating an inclusive climate. Feel free to browse here or see a full list of examples on the menu page. While we have made suggestions as to which disciplines these may be appropriate to use in, we encourage you to think about other ways in which you could use these or other classroom tools for the same end. Please let us know and we will add it to TILE!

Guest Lecturers


Discipline and/or subject: Any and all

Guest lecturer or diverse panel of experts

Implementation and Potential Learning Outcomes:

Identify minority experts in your field and bring them in for discussion. They should spend most of the time on their scholarship and area(s) of expertise and only speak about their minority status in the field when and if they so choose. The potential outcomes are many. Students will identify the speaker as a role model both for minorities and non-minorities. By modeling respect for experts in the field regardless of their minority identity, students will understand that these people are equals as professionals, and potentially carry that respect forward. Students may evolve into professionals who support and understand some of the challenges that minorities face in their field.

Submitted by Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Educational Resources, Johns Hopkins University

Crash Test Dummies


Discipline and/or subject: Engineering, gender studies

Case study

This case study is taken from Stanford’s Gendered Innovations, Pregnant Crash Dummies Case Study: http://genderedinnovations.stanford.edu/case-studies/crash.html#tabs-2

There is a complete set of instructions and suggestions for use on the website. In summary:

In 1949 the US military developed, Sierra Sam, the first crash test dummy based on a 95th percentile male body. Women were included in the 70s, children in the 80s and babies in the 90s. There is one group/body type that is not required in vehicle crash tests and yet accounts for the number one fatality rate among a certain group. Guesses?


  • What are the dangers to the fetus with the current seat belt system?
  • Could you design something better?
  • Given what you know, what requirements or federal policies or disclaimers would you require that are currently not in place?
  • Do the standard seatbelt and seat requirements leave any other segments of the population at risk? If so, who?

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will be able to explain the importance of a diverse design or research team.
  • Students will recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach in design overlooks important segments of the population.
  • Students will discuss the value of policies that require design considerations for all segments of the population.

LGBTQ and Survey Design


Discipline and/or subject:

Survey design

Class discussion


This class discussion asks students to consider how survey design can shape the responses received, and how language shapes what we think.

Documents for discussion:

Discussion questions:

  • Why might people be reluctant to share their sexual orientation or gender identity on a survey?
  • What are some ways you can imagine asking questions about sexual orientation/gender identity? How might they shape the responses received?
  • Why might a researcher want to ask questions about sexual orientation/gender identity?

Learning Outcomes:

  • Participants will recognize how question wording can shape the responses received on a survey.
  • Participants will be able to create demographic questions for a survey.

Submitted by Demere Woolway, Director of LGBTQ Life, Johns Hopkins University

Girls and Video Games

Girl playing video game with headphones

Image: Pixabay.com

Discipline and/or subject: Computer science, gender studies

Pedagogy: Case study

Implementation: This case deals with the representation of females in video games based on the experiences of Madeline Messer, a 12 year old video game player. Maddie observed that in most of the games she played the default character was male. If you want to play as a female, you often have to pay. Maddie did some research to test her observation. The results prompted her to write an op-ed piece that was published in the Washington Post. The op-ed piece was read by video game developers and had some surprising results.

Have your students read the NPR piece on Maddie Messer: A 12-Year-Old Girl Takes On The Video Game Industry, April 8, 2015: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2015/04/08/398297737/a-12-year-old-girl-takes-on-the-video-game-industry

and Maddie’s op-ed in the Washington Post, March 4, 2015: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/03/04/im-a-12-year-old-girl-why-dont-the-characters-in-my-apps-look-like-me/

Further Reading/Resources:
A course where students are developing video games provides an opportunity for students to examine these issues in greater depth. Although the numbers of girls and women playing video games are increasing, there are far fewer female characters portrayed in games than males.  There are even fewer minorities and people with disabilities represented. Additionally female characters are often hyper-sexualized. Consider having teams of students research these issues, along with gathering data to examine the socio-economic and ethnographic backgrounds of gamers. In a game design course, students could be tasked with creating a game that is more inclusive, based on what they find from their research.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will discuss how gender bias affects young girls.
  • Students will be able to describe how price discrimination becomes gender discrimination.

Submitted by Shannon Simpson, Librarian for Student Engagement and Information Fluency, Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University

Ethics in Medical Research

Johns Hopkins Hospital
By Lizardraley99 CC BY-SA 3.0: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Johns_Hopkins_Hospital.jpg

Discipline and/or subject:
Medical ethics, social policies, public health studies

Case studies

Two case studies can be developed from the articles, books, and podcasts listed as resources here.

Johns Hopkins and research in Guatemala: More than 770 plaintiffs are suing the Johns Hopkins Hospital System Corp. over its role in a series of medical experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s and 1950s during which people were deliberately infected with venereal diseases without their consent. The lawsuit filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court seeks $1 billion in damages for individuals, spouses and children of people infected with syphilis, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases through a U.S. government program between 1945 and 1956.

But Robert Mathias, the lead counsel for Johns Hopkins, said the lawsuit is baseless. "It was not a Johns Hopkins study. Johns Hopkins did not initiate, pay for or direct this study. It was a federal government study," Mathias said. "Everyone who knows anything knows that when doctors and scientists are acting on those committees they are acting on behalf of the federal government and not on the behalf of the research university or hospital they came from."

Johns Hopkins and Henrietta Lacks: Henrietta Lacks is the subject of a book by Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks. Henrietta Lacks was a poor black woman who sought treatment for cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. Two cell samples were taken without her permission. A research scientist cultured the cells, starting a line that he named HeLa. This line became one of the most important tools in medicine, used in developing the polio vaccine, cloning, sensitivity testing, cancer and HIV research, gene mapping, and more. Eventually her family discovered this use and questioned the medical ethics.

Besides the book there numerous articles on the case.

Questions to ask:

  • To what extent does an institution (or business) bear responsibility for employees’ work (as experts in a field) done outside of the institution, in this case for those who worked at JHU but sat on government committees?
  • How are these cases alike? How are they different?
  • What were the benefits of the research studies?
  • What were the damages suffered by the patients and their families?
  • What are the ethical issues?
  • What remedies would be appropriate and possible in either/both cases? [Note that in the Lacks case, direct financial remedies were not made].

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will summarize the history of two cases involving ethically questionable research.
  • Students will compare and contrast the cases.
  • Students will identify potential remedies.

Submitted by Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer, Center for Educational Resources, Johns Hopkins University

Intersex Children and Surgery


Mrs. Higgerson’s Paper Dolls: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dedree/7715254834/

Discipline and/or subject:
Medicine, health studies, psychology, gender studies, counseling 

Case study, in-class discussion, role play

Intersex children are born with bodies that do not match the category of “female” or “male.” In these cases, sometimes called disorders of sex development or differences of sex development, surgery often is done to make the infant’s body match a male or female gender assignment. Follow-up studies are rare, so there is little evidence as to whether these surgeries are either necessary or successful. To facilitate an in-class discussion, have students read Dreger’s article and examine the two websites:

Class activities could involve a discussion of the topic, examining the case study in Alice Dreger’s article, or a role play in which a student might take on the role of a doctor/medical practitioner/counselor talking to the family of an intersex infant.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Participants will be able to describe variations in sex development.
  • Participants will be able to summarize ethical considerations in surgical interventions.

Submitted by Demere Woolway, Director of LGBTQ Life, Johns Hopkins University

Early Adolescents and Music Preferences


Discipline and/or subject:
Information literacy (effects of bias in a research study and subsequent publication of results), sociology, health/medicine

Reading and evaluation of scholarly article (abstract) and class discussion

The article by ter Bogt, T.F.M, Keijsers, L., and Meeus, W.H.J.; Early Adolescent Music Preferences and Minor Delinquency, Pediatrics, January 6, 2013, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/01/02/peds.2012-0708.abstract published its results in summary:

The results showed that early fans of different types of rock (e.g., rock, heavy metal, gothic, punk), African American music (rhythm and blues, hip-hop), and electronic dance music (trance, techno/hardhouse) showed elevated minor delinquency concurrently and longitudinally. Preferring conventional pop (chart pop) or highbrow music (classic music, jazz), in contrast, was not related to or was negatively related to minor delinquency.

Before or during class, have students review the first page Abstract: Objectives, Methods, Results, Conclusions (create a handout, or link to the online version).

Questions to ask:

  • What can you conclude from this abstract?
  • African American music is the only genre defined by race. Do you agree with this definition? Why or why not?
  • Jazz, a musical genre with roots in African American culture, was listed in the "highbrow" category. What does that tell you about the perspective of the researchers? 
  • Can you think of alternate reasons for correlations between music exposure and juvenile delinquency?
  • What recommendations might a pediatrician or other child healthcare professional who has not properly evaluated this article make to parents or child-care providers?
  • The article was published in a peer-reviewed journal. [Check students’ understanding of this term.] What does this mean when you're evaluating sources? How does your evaluation of this article affect your perception of peer-reviewed articles?

Further Reading/Resources:
NPR interview with Jeffrey Mumford, an African American symphonic composer on the challenges faced by African American composers http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/08/11/210527949/the-american-symphonic-legacy-not-just-for-white-guys

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will be able to evaluate the abstract of a peer reviewed article.
  • Students will be able to select and extract bias language and its implications from a scholarly article.
  • Students will be able to predict the negative implications if the conclusions of this study are propagated.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate the use of analysis techniques to evaluate information for bias.

Submitted by Shannon Simpson, Librarian for Student Engagement and Information Fluency, Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University

Strange Fruit

Twitter feed screen shot https://twitter.com/search?q=STRANGEFRUITPR&src=typd

Discipline and/or subject:

Information literacy, business, marketing, communication

Critical thinking, in-class exercise


Students can do this in class on their laptops, tablets, or smart phones.

In 2014 a food and entertainment public relations firm called Strange Fruit was the subject of a media backlash. Ask the students to Google the term strange fruit to see why.

Questions to ask:

  • To what does the term refer?
  • Where did the term originate and who has used it since then?
  • What would you tell this firm if during the media firestorm they had come to you for advice?

Further Reading/Resources:

For a report on the story see http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/pr-firm-learns-why-strange-fruit-not-fit-company-name.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will employ basic internet research skills.
  • Students will recognize the importance of doing research when using unfamiliar terms.
  • Students will discover the value of being culturally competent.

Submitted by Shannon Simpson, Librarian for Student Engagement and Information Fluency, Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University