As classrooms across the country become increasingly diverse from a cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic perspective, school districts must go beyond identifying the content and material for their K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs and ensure that all of their students have access to STEM opportunities.
According to an article published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), public education advocates Michelle Moore and Jorge Valenzuela suggest that to make this a reality, schools must make educational equity a top priority.
In keeping with this recommendation, the first step in the ISTE’s Equity Literacy Framework — guidelines that enable teachers to promote and advocate for educational equity — is to recognize that all students have the capacity to learn and benefit from STEM education.
Identifying and Eliminating Implicit Biases
For Moore and Valenzuela, it is essential that educators acknowledge that everyone has implicit biases that affect our thoughts and actions toward others. To identify and address this, the authors encourage educators to look for patterns in their teaching such as, “are boys being asked more technical questions while girls are asked to share those that require empathy?” Additionally, when it comes to the students who are participating in STEM programming, “is there a certain group that is over-represented or under-represented?” Asking questions like these is an effective way to identify if more can be done to increase the accessibility of STEM education within a district.
Increasing Cultural Awareness
Equally essential in providing equitable STEM education district-wide is evaluating how cultural differences between educators and students can often impede the quality of teaching and understanding. In an article published by ISTE, neurobiologist and diversity consultant Alicia Santiago agrees and recommends approaching STEM teaching and learning using a culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP).
A key aspect of this teaching method is to create an inclusive learning environment where everyone feels welcome. “In such an environment,” Santiago says, “students believe their contributions and perspectives are valued and respected. They feel they belong. This positivity impacts students’ interest and motivation in STEM.”
To begin constructing this type of environment, Santiago suggests that educators ask themselves the following questions:
- Do your students feel empowered and capable of discussing concerns or challenges with you or their peers?
- How do your teaching practices foster a learning community in which each student is valued and considered?
- What strategies do you use to support diverse learners?
Because culture is crucial to all healthy and effective learning environments, reacting to the individual needs of students when it comes to empathizing with their unique differences will go a long way to providing STEM equity at the district level.
Learn More About Our Equitable Education Programs
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