33 SES 14, Including Girls Through Supporting the Development of Their Identities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
In many European and other Western countries, the participation rates of girls in STEM education, particularly in physics and advanced mathematics have remained unchanged or declined since the mid-1990s. The stagnation hints at a problem that is complex (Archer et al., 2012). Deeply embedded cultural expectations and traditions are, either overtly or unintentionally, gender-biased and impact on girls’ perceptions of, engagement with, and subsequently exclude many of them from participation in STEM education. This symposium will focus on the development of girls’ STEM identities to promote their inclusion in STEM.
Ideas about STEM develop at an early age, and unconscious bias of, and gendered stereotyping by, teachers and parents/carers impact importantly on children’s self-concept and identity formation (Chapman & Vivian, 2016). However, children’s patterns of identity formation and self-efficacy over time show differences between science and mathematics, with many students seeing themselves as ‘not good at’ mathematics in the early primary school years. In science, the identity is more positive in the early and primary years, with a sharp drop in attitudes across the middle secondary school years. Therefore, experiences through the early to middle secondary years can be crucial in maintaining interest and confidence with sciences, leading to points of choice of direction at ages 15 to 16 (Tytler, 2014). There is also evidence in the literature that to maintain an interest in and commitment to STEM across the secondary school years, each individual needs to have ongoing positive experiences and measures of success that will reinforce and develop their identities in relation to STEM futures.
However, researchers have broadly recognized that science curricula, particularly the physical sciences and mathematics curricula reflect their masculine disciplinary origins, and have struggled to interest or be valued by many girls (Calabrese Barton, Tan, & Rivet, 2008; Haussler & Hoffmann, 2002). The masculine origins of these subjects are evident in a focus on agentic power, competition in the history of breakthroughs, and in the character of explanatory theories about nature (Haraway, 2013). Lengthy histories of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ subjects reinforce gendered accounts of the curriculum, and the gendered attributes claimed as necessary for success in different subjects. Such assumptions about what draws individuals and groups of different genders into various STEM areas may in fact be reinforcing gender stereotypes associated with particular aspects of the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics. Working on influencing and breaking down traditional stereotypes, that is, nurturing diverse identities is recommended. Central in these endeavours is supporting girls to see the benefits of STEM in expanding their possibilities.
This symposium focuses on initiatives that address the abovementioned issues. In the first presentation, a study from the UK is presented on working class girls aged 11-13, which was part of a larger project aiming to understand how young people from diverse backgrounds engage with science. The focus of this paper is on the discourses that enabled and supported working class girls to identify with science. The second paper presents the results of a youth participatory action research study from the USA, in which two middle school girls co-designed and taught electricity lessons to their classmates. The study shows how this approach contributed towards supporting productive identity work and more inclusive science education. The third and final paper is based on an Australian study and focuses on the role that mentors could play in providing relatable STEM narratives to address the need for girls to be able to see themselves and identify with particular career pathways in STEM. The symposium will be concluded by a discussant, who reflects on the studies and their implications, and a discussion with the audience.
Archer, L., DeWitt, J., Osborne, J., Dillon, J., Willis, B., & Wong, B. (2012). “Balancing acts”: Elementary school girls’ negotiations of femininity, achievement, and science. Science Education, 96(6), 967-989. Calabrese Barton, A., Tan, E., & Rivet, A. (2008). Creating hybrid spaces for engaging school science among urban middle school girls. American Educational Research Journal, 45, 68-103. Chapman, S. & Vivian, R. (2016). Engaging the future of STEM: A study of international best practice for promoting the participation of young people, particularly girls, in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Australian Government (Office for Women, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet), in partnership with the Chief Executive Women (CEW). Haraway, D. (2013). Simians, cyborgs, and women: The reinvention of nature. New York: Routledge. Häussler, P., & Hoffmann, L. (2002). An intervention study to enhance girls' interest, self‐concept, and achievement in physics classes. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(9), 870-888. Tytler, R.W. (2014). Attitudes, identity, and aspirations toward science. In N.G. Lederman & S.K. Abell (Eds.,) Handbook of Research on Science Education (pp. 82-103). New York: Routledge.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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