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Formal and informal online learning spaces have evolved into important sources of knowledge that are accessible to many, require limited mobility, and provide ubiquitous learning opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has led to a major jump in the increase of online learning to make learning available, accessible, and possible to the diverse learner population globally. Reducing the gender divide in access to knowledge and information has been the goal of many initiatives, and understanding how access has evolved and improved women’s opportunities to learn and be empowered is key to analyze the changing society. Women are empowered when they have access to learning and access is enhanced through the use of formal and informal online learning spaces and programs. With the knowledge gained, women’s capability is boosted with informed choices, active roles in the workforce, advancement in academics, and increased participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Online learning can encourage and motivate women to actively participate in social or cultural movements as well as modify their roles as childbearers, caregivers, and home managers. Women empowerment and gender equality has been the focus of research for decades, but with the rise and availability of ubiquitous learning possibilities, women empowerment through the utilization of online learning opportunities is becoming an area that has much need for understanding. In the past, women were more passive about their marginalized position in society. However, women in the 21st century are more aware and active, and are disrupting their marginalized status with their increased use of digital spaces and online learning possibilities. They explore different sources of knowledge and information and join in different online education opportunities for formal and informal learning. Women not only empower themselves with the exploration of online resources but also others when they teach online, actively share information on social media, and participate in online discussion forums.

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

Children’s conceptions and experiences of learning greatly influence how and what they learn. Traditional forms of schooling typically position learners at the periphery of decisions about their own learning. Curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment practices emphasize the attainment of system-mandated learning outcomes, and this emphasis predetermines much of what is deemed by adults to be important or worthwhile student learning. Children consequently come to view their school learning in fragmented, individualistic, and narrowly adult-defined and controlled ways. Many state schooling system settings permit only limited choice and decision making by children. However, the history of compulsory education also contains numerous instances of schoolchildren organizing and taking collective action against the wishes of adults on issues that are of concern to them; and of states, communities, and individual schools where radically different schooling approaches have been attempted, both inside and outside the publicly funded system. These “free,” “alternative,” or “democratic” schooling initiatives are part of long-standing “progressive” education counter-discourses that aim to demonstrate the benefits of child-centered and even child-determined schooling. Such initiatives have encountered both resistance and support in schooling systems and consequently offer useful lessons with regard to contemporary discourses around children’s rights and student voice, as well as their contribution to schooling system reform. In recent decades, the combined effects of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and growing scholarly interest in “student voice” research and reform efforts in ordinary schools have increased expectations that children should have a meaningful say in their learning at school. The UNCRC underpins polity efforts to facilitate young people’s active participation in decision making in areas that affect them across the social agencies. Although contemporary “student voice” initiatives offer some promise for more of a “partnership” between adults and children in the ordinary school, they are often conceptualized and enacted at a superficial or tokenistic level. In continuing to position children simply as students who need the protection and direction of adults, schools fail to give adequate attention to the rich ways in which out-of-school learning contributes to a child’s holistic identity, to the learning strategies young people use in their day-to-day lives outside of compulsory schooling settings, and how these might help shape children’s agentic participation in meaningful decision making about what and how they learn while at school. A greater focus on the discursive processes of informal and everyday learning in family and community, and on the learning strengths or funds of knowledge children acquire in these settings, encourages the kinds of school and classroom conditions in which children and young people actively explore aspects of their world that interest them, experience agency in and commitment to their learning, and make choices about who they spend time with and what they prioritize in their learning. Informal learning affords young people the ability to naturally self-assess their learning and develop sophisticated understandings about what works for them and why. When young people actively engage with physical, technological, and social spaces, to advance their learning, they also learn to appreciate the utility of the tools and people around them. All these competencies or capabilities have relevance for what occurs in formal schooling settings also. Getting to know about the informal learning experiences of young people outside school influences the ways teachers think about who their learners are, learning as a phenomenon, and about the pedagogical repertoire they use to develop and enhance children’s capabilities. These pedagogical insights enable teachers to subtly or radically change their approaches to learning, the interactional framework of the classroom, and the teachers’ relations with families and with the local community that children negotiate each day.

Article

Learning and becoming are understood as emergent from participation in practices at the intersection of formal and informal science education. What learners value, engage in, and transform is understood as entangled with who they have been, think they are, and yet aim to become, calling for an intersectional lens to any analysis of learning and identity in science. Who one is and can become in science, given recognition by others as a science person, is political and a product of intersecting patterns of racism and sexism, to name two key dimensions, which are not additive but instead form a symbiotic relationship. Intersectionality foregrounds the structural, political, and representational of an oppressive system at work and is a lens essential to an equity- and social justice–driven conceptualization of science education at the intersection of formal and informal educational venues. Critical transdisciplinarity facilitates the unpacking of what science is and what kind of science a science person engages in, and it can move studies beyond paralyzing ideologies and meritocracies that undermine full participation in science by youth of color, for instance. Engagement with intersectionality, critical transdisciplinarity, and the political can make rightful presence a shared goal to work toward among science educators and researchers, a much-needed commitment in the informal science education field. Community-based educational spaces (CBES) challenge deficit discourses of youth and, instead, aim to build on youths’ funds of knowledge and identities through empowering practices. Identity work is approached through a grounding in practice theory, which calls for a focus on the figuring of worlds, lives, and identities. Becoming somebody in science is presented as a creative act by youth, who challenge what science is and who can become somebody in science. Actions by youth can make evident desirable identities that result in the “thickening” of their affinities with science, a process also charged by emotions. That is, intersectionality can be experienced as emotionally taxing, while agency and transformation by youth may result in positive emotions. A mobile view of learning and identity in science, captured by the notion of wayfinding, calls to attention hybridity, intersectionality, and critical transdisciplinarity. That grounding can move the study of learning and becoming in science beyond a binary vision of formal and informal science education while also making it political. A deeper commitment and engagement with social justice work in studies of learning and identity in CBES, a process well captured by the notion of rightful presence, could become a common goal to work toward in the vast field of science education, both formal and informal.

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.