Monday, 1 February 2016

Encouraging diverse student involvement in your STEM program

Evidence suggests that the idea that science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM or STEAM) are "just for boys" starts at an early age for both boys and girls.  So it is critical that all students are encouraged and provided with a variety of opportunities to be involved in rich STEM learning opportunities including coding and robotics.  The Australian government recognises the need to increase the number of girls and disadvantaged students including Indigenous students in STEM  in their recent initiative 'Restoring the focus on STEM in schools'.

Girls’ achievements and interest in math and science are more often shaped by the environment around them as discussed in  Why so few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

In 'Girls rock STEM', the author outlines the three major obstacles that contribute to girls' decreased interest in the STEM fields.

'1. Stereotype threat. The idea that girls are no good at math is so engrained in our culture that simply "bringing to mind that stereotype can actually lower the performance of girls," reports Christianne Corbett, coauthor of Why So Few? Research shows that girls don't even have to believe that the stereotype is true for it to have a negative effect on them.

2. Implicit bias. "A lot of the evidence suggests classroom behaviors are skewed toward boys," says Dale McCreedy, director of gender and family learning programs at the Franklin Institute. Implicit bias is unconscious, he notes, and can be as subtle as teachers' calling on boys more often than girls or responding more enthusiastically to boys' responses.

3. Lack of awareness of the depth and breadth of STEM. Too many people still think that "science is on a bench; it's being in a lab coat," McCreedy says, when the reality is that STEM professionals work on everything from cell phones to pharmaceuticals, fragrance to food science, and bridges to biotechnology.'

There is also an extreme under-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people engaged in STEM. A number of programs via the CSIRO and the government provide some strategies to address this. However, schools can make a difference in attitudes towards STEM by providing culturally meaningful connections with STEM curriculum. 'STEM learning framed in local knowledge—in relation to local practices, and in land- and place-based ways—can enhance the relevance and meaning of STEM for Indigenous students and their communities'

There are a number of online resources available to teacher and schools to assist in developing
diverse involvement in STEM programs in your school:

Provides a number of resources including a book (eversion also) that showcases real life women in tech.

Schools can also access a number of books that can encourage students to get involved in STEM.  For example 'Coding for Beginners using Scratch' pictured below nd many more available in this area.

School makerspaces are also a great way of allowing students to explore a variety of STEM activities.

For practical activities to get started with coding activities see our Pinterest board.

 Hill, C., Corbett, C., & Rose, A. (2010). Why so few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Retrieved 1st Feb 2016 from:

Fink, J. W. (2015). Girls rock STEM. Instructor, 124(5), 22-25
This article available upon request from LEX library.

Implementing Meaningful STEM Education with Indigenous Students & Families,  Retrieved 1st Feb 2016 from:

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