Bringing more equity to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education ensures that a more diverse student body will have access to STEM-related opportunities. For this to happen, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) suggests that schools prioritize educational equity. Part of filling the need for STEM professionals involves efforts like ensuring that all students have access to STEM education including encouraging underrepresented minorities, those with disabilities and women to pursue careers in STEM-related fields. Being a fair and impartial educator in the classroom directly impacts students’ success in higher education, careers and their personal lives.
How to Engage Diverse Students in STEM Education
Many programs are designed to increase equity in STEM education, including the NAPE (National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity) Education Foundation’s STEM Equity Pipeline. It aims to improve enrollment and retention in STEM through the following efforts:
- instructing pedagogical techniques to teachers
- training counselors to encourage girls and underrepresented minorities to STEM fields
- promoting effective resources
The Equity Literacy Institute formed the Equity Literacy Framework guidelines that empower teachers to encourage and support diversity and equity in STEM. These guidelines state that educators must recognize and encourage STEM talent, respond to their students to encourage their abilities, redress inequitable policies to guarantee students have access to high-quality STEM experiences and create and sustain equitable recruitment procedures.
Here are a few ways that educators can engage students and prioritize educational equity:
- Build bridges. By using culturally inclusive learning practices, educators can bridge a cultural divide. Implementing culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) will challenge biases toward diverse students. Learning about cultural differences can enable teachers to encourage each student and their potential while providing an engaging learning environment.
- Use student interests. Educators who listen to their students and understand their interests can formulate learning outcomes based on their passions. By incorporating science, technology, engineering and math into the outside interests of their students, teachers can expand the idea of what it means to study STEM.
- Mix and match. When teachers combine music theory into a math lesson, technology into learning about a scientific theory or even engineering into an art class, they can open up the world of STEM to students in a more inclusive way than just dividing up each subject into its own lesson time.
- Encourage everyone. Eliminating implicit biases or unconscious beliefs about underrepresented students will build confidence in students. Many educators may be unaware that facial expressions, words, tone of voice and hand gestures are interpreted differently depending on gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. By welcoming, encouraging and providing opportunities to all students, teachers can open doors to areas of study that may have been perceived as closed to underrepresented students.
What Role Does Social Justice Play in STEM?
STEM equity is all about social justice. For educators to become culturally aware and inclusive for all their students, they need to recognize that access to STEM education directly addresses inequalities and implicit biases against minorities. By adjusting how STEM topics are taught, more students can be engaged in the classroom and pursue STEM-related careers.
A diverse workforce is more financially successful than a non-diverse ones. A system that drives Americans to study STEM careers can be more inclusive and give voice to a more comprehensive and diverse workforce that includes women and underrepresented minorities. Learning specialized pedagogy approaches can prepare you to successfully design and execute STEM programs while enhancing classroom instruction.