Creating an Equitable Learning Environment


  • Taryn Bayles University of Pittsburgh
  • Claudia Morrell Morrell Consulting



 To better understand the components that create an equitable learning environment, we have analyzed a number of highly successful programs that we developed and conducted targeting K-12 students, their teachers, and university students. We identified four criteria experienced by the student that are essential for his or her recruitment, participation and completion. These include (1) an inclusive and welcoming environment, (2) an experience of normalcy that minimizes conflicts to the student’s identity, (3) a sense of empowerment and control in his or her learning, and (4) relevance to his or her life, culture, and community. Formal and informal educational programs have been analyzed and have been found to have these four elements, which is supported by both literature and three diverse focus groups. Having educators and administrators create an equitable learning environment benefits all of our students and is supported by evidence in the enrollment in the chemical engineering program at a research university that more than quadrupled, during which the female population ranged between 25 to 48% female and the under-represented minority (URM) students ranged between 20% to 47%.

Author Biographies

Taryn Bayles, University of Pittsburgh


 Taryn Bayles is a Teaching Track Professor, and Vice Chair of Undergraduate Education in the Chemical & Petroleum Engineering department at the University of Pittsburgh. She has spent part of her career working in process engineering, computer modeling & control, process design & testing and engineering management with Exxon, Westinghouse, Phillips Petroleum, Sandia National Labs and PETC. She has also spent over 20 years teaching Chemical Engineering at the UNR, Pitt, UMCP and UMBC. Her research focuses on Engineering Education and Outreach and has received over $6.7M of NSF funding; the goal of this research is to increase awareness of and interest in pursuing engineering as a career, as well as to understand what factors help students be successful once they have chosen engineering as a major.

Claudia Morrell, Morrell Consulting


 Ms. Morrell’s decades of work have focused on understanding and enacting efforts to increase access and educational equity for women and other underrepresented groups to quality education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She has both a national and international reputation and proven history of success using research-based models and tested practices to improve student outcomes for both secondary and post-secondary education. In the U.S., Ms. Morrell has recently provided consulting for the Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland, the U.S. Department of Education; the Pennsylvania Department of Education; the Allison Group (an evaluation organization); Johns Hopkins University School of Education; and the University Of Pittsburgh (Pitt) Swanson School of Engineering (SSoE); among others.