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At a large, diverse, hispanic-serving, master’s-granting university, the Alma Project was created to support the rich connections of life experiences of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students that come from racially diverse backgrounds through reflective journaling. Utilizing frameworks in ethnic studies and social psychology, the Alma Project aims to make learning STEM inclusive by affirming the intersectional identities and cultural wealth that students bring into STEM classrooms. Approximately once per month students who participate in the Alma Project spend 5–10 min at the beginning of class responding to questions designed to affirm their values and purpose for studying STEM in college. Students then spend time in class sharing their responses with their peers, to the extent that they feel comfortable, including common struggles and successes in navigating through college and STEM spaces. For this study, we analyze 180 reflective journaling essays of students enrolled in General Physics I, an algebra-based introductory physics course primarily for life science majors. Students were enrolled in a required lab, a self-selected community-based learning program (Supplemental Instruction), or in a small number of instances, both. Using the community cultural wealth framework to anchor our analysis, we identified 11 cultural capitals that students often expressed within these physics spaces. Students in both populations frequently expressed aspirational, attainment, and navigational capital, while expressions of other cultural capitals, such as social capital, differ in the two populations. Our findings suggest that students bring rich and diverse perspectives into physics classrooms when asked to reflect about their lived experiences. Moreover, our study provides evidence that reflective journaling can be used as an asset-based teaching tool. By using reflective journaling in physics spaces, recognizing students’ assets has the potential for physics educators to leverage students’ lived experiences, goals, and values to make physics learning more meaningful and engaging.


This is the Publisher PDF of Khanh Tran, Ana Maria Barrera, Kim Coble, Mireya Arreguin, Marissa Harris, Alex Macha-Lopez, Michaela Perez, and Alegra Eroy-Reveles (2022) "Cultivating cultural capitals in introductory algebra-based physics through reflective journaling." Physical Review Physics Education Research 18 (2).

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