Physicist Tim McKay has taught enough introductory physics courses to know what many university students think about them: They are difficult. You will get a lower grade in them than in your other courses. And worst of all: If you don’t do well, then you probably weren’t meant to study science after all.
Studies have shown that those who face the worst consequences from this mentality are those who are already less likely to be found in many STEM fields: women, underrepresented minorities and students from low-income backgrounds.
In higher education, this is no secret. But creating the cultural shift needed to understand the core of these issues requires effort and collaboration across institutions, not to mention buy-in from the top down.