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Article

Stephen M. Ritchie

STEM education in schools has become the subject of energetic promotion by universities and policymakers. The mythical narrative of STEM in crisis has driven policy to promote STEM education throughout the world in order to meet the challenges of future workforce demands alongside an obsession with high-stakes testing for national and international comparisons as a proxy for education quality. Unidisciplinary emphases in the curriculum have failed to deliver on the goal to attract more students to pursue STEM courses and careers or to develop sophisticated STEM literacies. A radical shift in the curriculum toward integrated STEM education through multidisciplinary/ interdisciplinary/ transdisciplinary projects is required to meet future challenges. Project-based activities that engage students in solving real-world problems requiring multiple perspectives and skills that are authentically assessed by autonomous professional teachers are needed. Governments and non-government sponsors should support curriculum development with teachers, and their continuing professional development in this process. Integrating STEM with creative expression from the arts shows promise at engaging students and developing their STEM literacies. Research into the efficacy of such projects is necessary to inform authorities and teachers of possibilities for future developments. Foci for further research also are identified.

Article

Jennifer Jenson and Suzanne de Castell

The literature on gender equity, education, and technological innovation identifies three primary areas of concern: STEM (collective disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), computer science, and, interestingly enough, reading comprehension. These gendered divides are often framed in public discourse as problems of equality; however, most research and scholarly discussions focus on equity, on fairness. Considerable work by feminists in the social studies of science and technology, demonstrating how innovation and technology are already gendered, has lent strong support to an educational emphasis on how “fairness” might best be achieved. It remains the case that “gender” in most research studies refers to a binarized conception of sex: either male or female, girls or boys, men or women. However, critical intersectional understandings of gender that take into account age, socioeconomic class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and dis/abilities hold out promise for more nuanced understandings of inequities in education. For example, taking the widest perspective, it is socioeconomic class, not gender, that continues to create the greatest disparities in educational outcomes, whereas within any given socioeconomic context, gender is paramount. For girls and women, equity-focused educational interventions aim to develop better pathways to higher education and jobs in STEM subjects and fields. Female underrepresentation in STEM and computer science is often framed as a gender-specific skills deficit impeding access to and success in globally competitive, technologically innovative, and the most highly remunerated occupations, rather than as a barrier created by differences in expectations, norms, experience, and prior educational provision. Gender equity initiatives for school-aged boys are concentrated in the areas of reading and comprehension skills, with little connection made in the literature to either presumptions about or implications of this underachievement as a deficit that jeopardizes future educational or vocational skills. It may be that evolving conceptions and practices of gender that take better account of both gender diversity and intersectionality will enable educational interventions beyond these stereotypical and binarized educational analyses and initiatives, lending hope that we may yet see women and girls assuming not just an equitable but indeed a transformative role in technological innovation.

Article

Just as the factory assembly line replaced the farmer’s plow as the symbol of economic productivity at the beginning of the 19th century, so the computer and its software have replaced the assembly line at the beginning of the 21st century. In the United States, and in countries around the world, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education has moved front and center in national discussions of both productivity and social justice. This article will include (a) a review of how the world of work has changed, with a special focus on the history and impact of digital technology since ca. 1970; (b) lessons from research about K-12 education—elementary, middle school, and secondary education—and about higher education; and (c) research about how to increase access to education, and facilitate achievement, for those who traditionally have been under-represented in STEM education. Rigorous research has demonstrated how psychological and sociological factors (e.g., self-concepts, instructor expectations, and social support) often make the difference between student success and failure. To fully contextualize consideration of STEM education, many advocate broadening STEM to STEAM by including the arts, or the arts and humanities, in building educational programs. In today’s world a young person who wishes to secure a better life for himself or herself would be well advised to study STEM. Furthermore, a nation that wishes to advance economically, while reducing the gap between the have’s and the have-not’s, should strengthen its STEM education infrastructure.

Article

Despite recently improved numbers of women and other historically underrepresented groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in U.S. higher education, women continue to lag significantly in comparison with men in many STEM disciplines. Female participation is especially low in computer science, engineering, and physics and at the advanced levels in academic STEM—at full professor and in administrative (department head or chair, dean) positions. While there have been various theoretical approaches to explain why this gender gap persists, a particularly productive strand of research indicates that deeply rooted gendered, racialized, and heteronormative institutional structures and practices act as barriers to a more significant movement of diverse women into academic STEM fields. More specifically, this research documents that a hostile academic climate, exclusionary practices, and subtle forms of discrimination in hiring and promotion, as well as lack of positive recognition of female scientists’ work, account for relatively low numbers of women in fields such as engineering, physics, and computer science. Nevertheless, since the early 2000s, numerous initiatives have been undertaken in U.S. higher education to remedy the situation, and some progress has been made through programs that attempt to transform STEM departments and colleges into more inclusive and equitable academic spaces.

Article

Critical race theory (CRT) is a framework that attends to the prevalence, permanence, and impact of racism embedded within and manifested through the policies, practices, norms, and expectations of U.S. social institutions and how those concepts have differentially impacted the lived experiences of Black and Brown individuals. CRT bore out of the legal studies—complemented by philosophical and sociological fields—and has since been applied to a multitude of disciplines including education. Composed of several tenets or principles, CRT approaches to research, scholarship, and praxis take a structural, systematic, or systemic perspective rather than an individual or isolated perspective. CRT provides scholars and practitioners the ability to acknowledge and challenge structural racism and intersectional forms of oppression as foundational to the perceived and experienced inequities outlined by various constituents. In providing such a perspective, CRT facilitates the opportunity for future ideologies that promote radical and transformative change to systems and structures that perpetuate racial and intersectional-based oppression. STEM education—representing the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from inter- and intradisciplinary perspectives—constitutes the norms, ideologies, beliefs, and practices hallmarked by and within these fields, examined both separately as individual disciplines (e.g., science) and collectively (i.e., STEM). These concepts comprise what is noted as the culture of STEM. Scholarship on STEM education, broadly conceived, discusses the influence and impact of STEM culture across P–20+ education on access, engagement, teaching, and learning. These components are noted through examining student experiences; teachers’ (faculty) engagement, pedagogy, and practice; leadership and administration’s implementation of the aforementioned structures; and the creation and reinforcement of policies that regulate STEM culture. Critical race theoretical approaches to STEM education thus critique how the culture of STEM differentially addresses the needs and desires of various racially minoritized communities in and through STEM disciplines. These critiques are based on the fact that the power to disenfranchise individuals is facilitated by the culture of whiteness embedded within STEM culture, a perspective that is codified and protected by society to favor and privilege White people. CRT in STEM education research tackles the influence and impact of racism and intersectional oppression on racially minoritized individuals in and through STEM by revealing the manifestation and implications of racism and intersectional oppression on racially minoritized individuals’ STEM interactions. CRT in STEM also provides opportunities to reclaim and create space that more appropriately serves racially minoritized individuals through the use of counterstories that center the lived experience of said individuals at the crux of epistemological and ontological understandings, as well as the formation of policies, programs, and other actions. Such conceptions strive to challenge stakeholders within STEM to alter their individual and collective beliefs and perspectives of how and why race is a contending factor for access, engagement, and learning in STEM. These conceptions also strive to challenge stakeholders within STEM to reconfigure STEM structures to redress race-based inequity and oppression.

Article

Laura Colucci-Gray, Pamela Burnard, Donald Gray, and Carolyn Cooke

“STEAM education,” with its addition of “arts” to STEM subjects, is a complex and contested concept. On the one hand, STEAM builds upon the economic drivers that characterize STEM: an alignment of disciplinary areas that allegedly have the greatest impact on a developed country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). On the other hand, the addition of the arts may point to the recovery of educational aims and purposes that exceed economic growth: for example, by embracing social inclusion, community participation, or sustainability agendas. Central to understanding the different educational opportunities offered by STEAM is the interrogation of the role—and status—of the arts in relation to STEM subjects. The term “art” or “arts” may refer, for example, to the arts as realms/domains of knowledge, such as the humanities and social science disciplines, or to different ways of knowing and experiencing the world enabled by specific art forms, practices, or even pedagogies. In the face of such variety and possibilities, STEAM is a portmanteau term, hosting approaches that originate from different reconfigurations or iterative reconfiguring of disciplinary relationships. A critical discussion of the term “STEAM” will thus require an analysis of published literature alongside a review and discussion of ongoing practices in multiple field(s), which are shaped by and respond to a variety of policy directions and cultural traditions. The outcome is a multilayered and textured account of the limitations and possibilities for and relational understandings of STEAM education.

Article

Abigail Konopasky and Kimberly Sheridan

The Maker Movement is a broad international movement celebrating making with a wide range of tools and media, including an evolving array of new tools and processes for digital fabrication such as 3D printers and laser cutters. This article discusses who makers are in education, what that making entails, and where that making happens. akers are people of all ages who find digital and physical forums to share their products and processes. Educators and researchers in the Maker Movement in education are working to expand who makers are, providing critiques of traditional conceptions of maker identities and seeking to broaden participation in terms of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and ability status. Making entails a diversity of media, tools, processes and practices. Likewise, the Maker Movement in education purposefully transcends academic disciplines, drawing both on traditional academic subjects like engineering and math along with everyday life skills like sewing, carpentry and metalwork. Making happens across a variety of spaces where there is an educational focus, both informal (museums, community centers, libraries, and online) and formal (from K–12 to higher education, to teacher education). In these spaces, the specific goals and practices of the supporting organizations are woven together with those of the Maker Movement to support a range of learners and outcomes, including family inquiry, equity, access to technology, virtual community and support, social interaction, creativity, engineering education, and teacher candidate confidence. Maker education is often framed as a reaction to more “traditional” educational approaches and frequently involves the incorporation of making into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) approaches.

Article

Crystal Morton, Danielle Tate McMillan, and Winterbourne Harrison-Jones

Though the formal and informal mathematics learning experiences of Black girls are gaining more visibility in the literature, there is still a paucity of research around Black girls’ mathematics learning experiences. Black girls face unique challenges as learners in K–12 educational spaces because of their marginalized racial and gender identities. The interplay of race and racism unfolds in complex ways in Black girls’ learning experiences. This interplay hinders their development as mathematics learners and limits their access to transformative learning. As early as elementary school, Black girls are labeled as having limited mathematics knowledge and are often disproportionately placed in “lower level classrooms” devoid of any rigorous and transformative learning experiences. Teachers spend more time socially correcting Black girls rather than building on their brilliance. Even though Black girls value mathematics more and have higher confidence in mathematics than their White counterparts, they are still held to lower expectations by their teachers and are less likely to complete an advanced mathematics course. Nationally and globally, mathematics serves as an academic gatekeeper into every avenue of the labor market and higher education opportunities. Thus, the lack of opportunities Black girls have to engage in rigorous and transformative mathematics potentially locks them out of higher education opportunities and STEM-based careers. The mathematics learning experiences of Black girls move beyond challenges in K–12 spaces to limiting life choices and individual and community progress. To improve the formal and informal mathematics learning experiences of Black girls, we must understand their unique learning experiences more fully.

Article

Three key movements in the evolution of school science curriculum in the 20th century illustrate the complexity and difficulties of curriculum reform. Through social changes such as world wars, rising societal concerns about the environment, and the globalization of economies, the location for aspirations of national security, environmental responsibility, and, more recently, economic prosperity have come to focus on reformation of school science curricula. This hope springs from the hegemony of positivism. Each wave of reform, from the “alphabet science” programs as a response to the launching of Sputnik to the STEM-based programs in the 21st century, sheds light on the change process: the importance of involving teachers in curriculum change topics, the influence of societal factors, how feedback loops prevent change, how ethos and intentions are not enough for a successful change attempt, how a clever acronym can assist change, and the role of public truths in delimiting the extent of curriculum reform. These lessons on changing the curriculum illustrate how efforts to employ a school subject, in this case science, for social salvation is at best unpredictable and difficult but more usually unsuccessful.

Article

Barbara A. Kerr and Robyn N. Malmsten

There are many special characteristics and needs of gifted girls and women throughout the lifespan. As young girls, gifted girls can often be identified by early language development and precocious reading, and often need early admission to schooling, the opportunity for alone time, and encouragement and specialized training in the domains of their greatest interest. Adolescent gifted girls are often bored in school, conflicted about relationships and achievement, and eager for mentoring; they may need to advance through high school and early entry to college course-taking as well as strong relationships with master teachers and mentors. Gifted teens also need clear information about sexuality and sexual identity, particularly about the association of early sexual activity with lower achievement. Gifted women struggle throughout the world with gender relations, that is, the requirements by most societies that they bear an unequal share of the work of marriage and family life. How gifted women negotiate the dual demands of their societies often determines whether or not they will achieve eminence in their fields. Long-standing controversies concerning sex differences, women’s education, and definitions of eminence continue to have an impact on the educational and career development of gifted girls and women. Moderate sex differences favoring boys and men in sub-factors of cognitive abilities, like spatial-rotation abilities, continue to be highly publicized and are often interpreted to mean that gifted girls and women are less able than men to achieve in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Differences in adult gifted women’s and men’s STEM achievement are also attributed to preferences, when research shows that the most important variable associated with highest achievements are responsibilities in marriage and child-rearing, or gender relations. Controversies over single-sex education continue, with research both supporting and disputing the superiority of single-sex education for women; it may be that gifted women benefit more that average women from this kind of higher education. Whether single-sex or co-educational, the presence of a mentor may be most important to gifted women’s academic and career development. Finally, the concepts of eminence and genius are increasingly under scrutiny by scholars who claim they are highly gendered, with genius nearly always being associated with male dominated professions. Each of these controversies can affect gifted girls’ self-confidence, engagement, and persistence.

Article

Kimberley Pressick-Kilborn, Melissa Silk, and Jane Martin

STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education has become a global agenda, with schooling systems around the world in developed and developing countries seeking to incorporate STEM programs into their in-school and out-of-school curricula. While disciplinary integration has been common practice in primary (elementary) schooling for many decades, in the early 21st century the STEM education movement has promoted an increased focus on project- and problem-based learning across disciplines in secondary schools as well. Research suggests, however, that STEM education programs can face barriers in their implementation, often depending on whether they are designed to align with existing curriculum outcomes or whether they are developed as cocurricular programs. Challenges are also presented by the need for professional learning to equip teachers with new skills and knowledge in designing and delivering STEM education. In addition, some researchers and educators have argued for STEAM—integration of the arts in STEM education. For those concerned with school reform, a great strength of STEM and STEAM education approaches lies in the potential for transdisciplinarity. As such, new opportunities and possibilities for framing driving questions and addressing contemporary societal challenges are created. Two particular issues identified as critical are (a) the potential contribution of STEM education to creating a sustainable future, and (b) the importance of STEM education for social justice, in ensuring all children and young people have equitable access to learning opportunities.

Article

From the era of European empire to the global trades escalated after the World Wars, technological advancement, one of the key underlying conditions of globalization, has been closely linked with the production and reproduction of the colonizer/colonized. The rhetoric of modernity characterized by “salvation,” “rationality,” “development,” and nature-society or nature-culture divides underlies dominant perspectives on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education that have historically positioned economic development and national security as its core values. Such rhetoric inevitably and implicitly generates the logic of oppression and exploitation. Against the backdrop of nationalist and militaristic discourse representing modernity or coloniality, counter-voices have also arisen to envision a future of STEM education that is more humane and socioecologically just. Such bodies of critiques have interrogated interlocking colonial domains that shape the realm of STEM education: (a) settler colonialism, (b) paternalism, genderism, and coloniality, and (c) militarism and aggression and violence against the geopolitical Other. Our ways of knowing and being with STEM disciplines have been inexorably changed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which powerfully showed us how we live in the global chain of contagion. What kinds of portrayal can we depict if we dismantle colonial imaginaries of STEM education and instead center decolonial love—love that resists the nature-culture or nature-society divide, love to know our responsibilities and enact them in ways that give back, love that does not neglect historical oppression and violence yet carries us through? STEM education that posits decolonial love at its core will be inevitably and critically transdisciplinary, expanding the epistemological and ontological boundaries to embrace those who had been colonized and disciplined through racialized, gendered, and classist disciplinary practices of STEM.