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Facilitation in Informal STEM Education as a Complex Practice  

Stephanie Hladik

Museums, zoos, aquariums, parks, after-school clubs, summer camps, community workshops, and other informal education spaces are becoming the sites of new teaching and learning for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In all of these settings, facilitators (alternatively known as docents, explainers, educators, volunteers, or leaders) are key individuals who create learning opportunities with visitors of all ages and interests. They provide demonstrations of STEM concepts, lead tours and school groups, design activities, and support learners in making and tinkering activities—and this work is inherently complex and is intertwined with strands of pedagogy, role negotiation and identity, and labor. Educational approaches of constructivism and constructionism are clear in facilitators’ commitments to creating opportunities for learners to connect their own personal knowledge and experiences with STEM and to build new things from a variety of analog and digital technologies that can be displayed and shared with others. These pedagogical interactions are also social interactions, and facilitators work to invite learners into activities, guide and encourage them, and introduce new STEM content learning goals, even as they negotiate tensions involved in balancing these learning goals with interactional power dynamics and individual learner interests. Additionally, traditional tensions arising from the perceived binary of child-centered and adult-centered pedagogies are being challenged by research that highlights the ways in which intergenerational and equitable teaching and learning can take place as joint activity between adult facilitators and youth in informal STEM settings. Rather than trying to classify facilitation practices as child-centered or adult-centered, we should attend to the when and how of facilitation practices, which highlights their complexity and has implications for how to design and facilitate equitable informal STEM learning opportunities. Finally, the complexity of informal STEM facilitation is made visible when educational researchers consider the impact of institutional constraints on pedagogy and labor, factors that are often invisible or missing in observational studies of facilitator practices. Facilitators also adapt and improvise around these constraints to perform the behind-the-scenes labor of infrastructuring—the emergent, ongoing creation of support systems involving people, objects, and practices that are necessary for the success of new educational innovations. Future directions for research in informal STEM facilitation include greater attention to settings other than science museums, further research into informal computing and mathematics facilitation, and an explicit focus on equity in informal STEM facilitation.

Article

Seeding Rightful Presence and Reframing Equity in STEM Education With Historically Minoritized Communities  

Edna Tan and Angela Calabrese Barton

Equity as inclusion maintains as settled the epistemological, ontological, and axiological bases of Western STEM. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) In exchange for participation in Western STEM, historically underrepresented and minoritized people in STEM need to deny salient aspects of their epistemologies, ontologies, and axiologies in order to assimilate into Western STEM culture. The existing structures in STEM and STEM education, built for White middle class heteropatriarchal norms, have alienated and oppressed minoritized youth of color. In response, a framework has been proposed, called “rightful presence,” for justice-oriented teaching and learning to critique and perturb the guest–host relationality operating in most STEM classrooms. The rightful presence framework is undergirded by three tenets: (a) allied political struggle is necessary to disciplinary learning; (b) rightfulness is claimed through making justice and injustice visible; and (c) collective disruption of guest–host relationalities amplify sociopolitical engagements. A case study from a 6th grade engineering project called the “Happy Box,” illustrates how these three tenets worked together to support students’ desires to address a community-identified problem—low student morale related to LGBTQ2S+ bullying—with rigorous engineering practices. How students came to frame the community issue and their iterative engineering process in prototyping the “Happy Box” illustrated the expansive epistemologies, ontologies, and axiologies made legitimate and important in 6th grade STEM teaching and learning. It is important to pay attention to both temporal and spatial dimensions when engaging in rightful presence sociopolitical work of surfacing injustices in STEM education. The process of disruption involves taking both a temporal (past-present-future) and spatial lens (spaces in which one may engage in STEM-related activities, in which contexts, and with whom). A temporal and spatial dual focus allows for making STEM-related justices visible across space and time that have a cumulative impact on how historically minoritized students might engage with STEM in the present. One way to keep our focus on both the temporal and spatial is to engage in community ethnography as pedagogy. Community ethnography as pedagogy involves: (a) an anchoring stance that community knowledge is valuable and essential to disciplinary learning; (b) a repertoire of pedagogical moves that support teacher–student, student–student, and student–community interactions in ways that identify, invite, integrate, and build on students’ community-based knowledge and embodied experiences; and (c) tools that position teachers and students as colearners of a community-identified, STEM-related phenomenon. Thus framed, community ethnography as pedagogy eschews the ideology of equity as inclusion with an eye toward new, justice-oriented social futures in youth-STEM relevant spaces and experiences. Allying with youth and community members in sociopolitical struggles is not an easy undertaking. Sustained efforts are required to make youth’s lives, communities, histories, presents, and hoped for futures visible and integral to reimagining what engaging with STEM education is and could be.

Article

Epistemology and Learning in STEM Education  

Andrew Elby

STEM students’ personal epistemologies—their views about what counts as knowledge and knowing in mathematics, science, and engineering—influence how they approach learning and problem-solving. For example, if algebra students conceptualize “knowing algebra” as knowing how to manipulate symbols and numbers to solve particular kinds of problems, they are likely to approach learning as mastering procedures, not as making sense of why those procedures work. By contrast, consider a student who conceptualizes “knowing physics” as having a qualitative understanding that makes sense to her. When studying, she might practice and reflect on the relevant problem-solving approaches, not just to master procedures but also to understand how those problem-solving approaches make sense in terms of underlying concepts. Although mathematics, engineering, and science differ, certain dimensions or aspects of students’ epistemologies are common across the STEM disciplines. These dimensions include to what extent students: (a) view knowledge as factual and procedural versus conceptual and heuristic, (b) view learning as acquiring separate pieces of knowledge versus linking those pieces into a coherent whole, and (c) think they can make sense of what they are learning by relating it to their own informal knowledge, experiences, and ways of thinking. Crucially, the epistemological views a student exhibits in a course are not necessarily a hardened personality trait or belief. A student might exhibit different epistemological views in different contexts, based in part on how the class is taught. Indeed, common STEM classroom cultures and structures can inadvertently invite students to adopt epistemological views that support superficial learning. Furthermore, broader cultural narratives, most notably the trope that mathematics and mathematical sciences can be understood only by people with innate talent, influence students’ epistemological views, again favoring those associated with superficial learning. Additional epistemological issues arise in integrated STEM units and lessons. In such lessons, mathematics, science, and engineering are “de-siloed,” often in the context of understanding and/or addressing a local or societal problem. However, unless STEM lessons are carefully crafted, students can experience the “problem” as little more than a motivational hook to engage them in mathematics and science business as usual. In that case, students might adopt the same epistemological views as they do in a siloed mathematics or science course. By contrast, when students frame the STEM lesson as an authentic engineering design challenge or attempt to understand an issue in which they learn and/or apply mathematics and science as needed to understand and/or address the challenge, students are more likely to view their learning as sense-making, drawing on multiple streams of both formal and informal knowledge.

Article

Gender Equitable Education and Technological Innovation  

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

Ontology, Epistemology, and Critical Theory in STEM Education  

Shakhnoza Kayumova and Kathryn J. Strom

The persistence of inequities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is at least partially due to Eurocentric ontological and epistemological perspectives. Eurocentric thinking foregrounds epistemology (knowing and what can be accepted as knowledge) and separates it from ontology (worldviews and assumptions about the nature of being and reality), while completely disregarding axiology (ethics). This obscures the background assumptions of those who produce knowledge by positioning a particular mode of existence (i.e., Western social, cultural, and historical ways of being) as natural and, in turn, reproduces it as truth. Historically, this logic constructed a hierarchized binary that positions Western ways of knowing and being as the norm, setting up non-Western ontologies and epistemologies as inferior and “other.” Ultimately, this perspective has served as a justification for colonialization and enslavement and maintained White supremacy. Science culture, broadly construed as STEM disciplines, continues to be constituted based on dominant Western epistemologies. Through curriculum and pedagogy, children and youth are socialized into the dominant cultural models of what it means to be a science person and do science, with disciplinary knowledge and practices grounded in epistemological and ontological positions such as objectivity, universality, and neutrality. Valuing particular forms of reasoning, culture, and scientific practice, combined with understanding all scientific contributions to have emerged from Europe, perpetuates White supremacy by ensuring the hegemonic reproduction of Western epistemology and ontology as dominant while positioning all other cultures as scientifically inferior. Youth from nondominant communities are in turn constructed from a dehumanizing, deficit stance, and they are left with only two options: assimilate into the dominant culture of science or be excluded from participating in science learning. However, many feminist, Indigenous, postcolonial, and neo-materialist scholars argue that epistemology and ontology are co-constituted—that is, they co-create each other—and therefore cannot be considered separately. This relational, nondualistic perspective sees reality in terms of heterogeneous mixtures, promoting a view in which the reality is not static and fixed but fluid, always in movement. And reality is not preexisting but constantly co-created through ongoing material-discursive, nature-culture relations that involve humans but do not center them. Consequently, this produces a view of knowledge that is situated, contingent, and partial because it is shaped by the knowledge maker(s) and the multiple social, political, cultural (and so on) systems in which they are enmeshed. Given that discourse, spaces, places, and other entities all shape the nature of relations and interactions, conditions for equity and justice in STEM classrooms do not preexist: Equity emerge as practices through just relations in specific times and places among the various actors and perspectives that must coexist for students to learn in productive ways. Creating the conditions for such emergence requires reconfiguration of relations from hierarchical and exclusionary to pluriversal. Pluriversal praxis requires embracing an ontoepistemological shift based on relationality, interdependence, embodiment, ethics, and care toward youth, diverse communities, and more-than-human collectives. While this may seem like a huge (and perhaps even impossible) undertaking, it is possible to think strategically about the ontoepistemological shifts that are needed. For example, teachers can engage in professional development that deliberately teaches a collectivist approach and emphasizes the joint construction of knowledge while helping them raise their sociopolitical consciousness and engage in critical reflection. Such entry points can help teachers and researchers develop more expansive and epistemologically heterogeneous views of STEM curriculum, teaching, and learning.

Article

STEM Education  

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

Gender and STEM in Higher Education in the United States  

Jill M. Bystydzienski

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 and STEM Education  

Terrell R. Morton

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

STEM Education, Economic Productivity, and Social Justice  

David E. Drew

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

Centering Young Black Women’s and Girls’ Voices in STEM Participation in the United States  

Kara Mitchell, Carla Wellborn, and Chezare Warren

There has been growing scholarly interest in Black girls’ and young women’s matriculation across the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline. This interest is fueled by the STEM field’s maintenance of a largely White and male culture, despite the passage of Title IX laws in the 1970s. This exploration of Black women’s and girls’ STEM participation has been incredibly important for extending what is known about this group. Less discernible from the extant literature is Black women’s and girls’ first-person sensemaking about the moments, people, incidents, and environments that determine not just their participation but also their persistence into and through higher education to complete a STEM undergraduate degree. The language of trajectories implicates life course, growth, and development in ability over time with age and experience. The various environments influencing young Black women’s and girls’ learning about STEM, and their decisions about how or if to participate in STEM, are informed by constantly evolving understandings of their intersectional race–gender identity. This identity is changing over time as they grow older and come into contact with various STEM learning opportunities, people, and places. Young Black women and girls are keenly aware of race–gender limitations imposed on them by dominant cultural norms, institutional agents, and experiences with institutional policy and practice. Such perspectives are shaping how they come to view themselves aside from STEM and the decisions they make at each point on the STEM pipeline specific to their desire to own a STEM identity despite their subject position as a race–gender minoritized person in STEM subjects and majors.

Article

Black Girls and Mathematics Learning  

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

The Maker Movement in Education  

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

A Critical Review of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics)  

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

“Globalization,” Coloniality, and Decolonial Love in STEM Education  

Miwa A. Takeuchi and Ananda Marin

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.

Article

STEM and STEAM Education in Australian K–12 Schooling  

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

The Curriculum of Science Education Reform  

David Blades

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

Gifted Girls and Women  

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.

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Computing in Precollege Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Education  

Amy Voss Farris and Gözde Tosun

Computing is essential to disciplinary practices and discourses of science, engineering, and mathematics. In each of these broad disciplinary areas, technology creates new ways of making sense of the world and designing solutions to problems. Computation and computational thinking are synergistic with ways of knowing in mathematics and in science, a relationship known as reflexivity, first proposed by Harel and Papert. In precollege educational contexts (e.g., K-12 schooling), learners’ production of computational artifacts is deeply complementary to learning and participating in science, mathematics, and engineering, rather than an isolated set of competencies. In K-12 contexts of teaching and learning, students’ data practices, scientific modeling, and modeling with mathematics are primary forms through which computing mediates the epistemic work of science, mathematics, and engineering. Related literature in this area has contributed to scholarship concerning students’ development of computational literacies––the multiple literacies involved in the use and creation of computational tools and computer languages to support participation in particular communities. Computational thinking is a term used to describe analytic approaches to posing problems and solving them that are based on principles and practices in computer science. Computational thinking is frequently discussed as a key target for learning. However, reflexivity refocuses computational thinking on the synergistic nature between learning computing and the epistemic (knowledge-making) work of STEM disciplines. This refocusing is useful for building an understanding of computing in relation to how students generate and work with data in STEM disciplines and how they participate in scientific modeling and modeling in mathematics, and contributes to generative computational abstractions for learning and teaching in STEM domains. A heterogeneous vision of computational literacies within STEM education is essential for the advancement of a more just and more equitable STEM education for all students. Generative computational abstractions must engage learners’ personal and phenomenological recontextualizations of the problems that they are making sense of. A democratic vision of computing in STEM education also entails that teacher education must advance a more heterogeneous vision of computing for knowledge-making aims. Teachers’ ability to facilitate authentic learning experiences in which computing is positioned as reflexive, humane, and used authentically in service of learning goals in STEM domains is of central importance to learners’ understanding of the relationship of computing with STEM fields.