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What Black Women Are Trying to Teach Us: Transforming Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Work in K-12 STEM Education Research, Practice, and Policy

On October 16th, 2018, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation at the University of Missouri by Dr. Ashley Woodson, Assistant Professor in Social Studies Education. Dr. Woodson’s presentation, “Same Script, Different Cast?: The Civic Case Against STEM Superheroes” was part of the Sandra K. Abell Conversations about College Science Teaching lecture series. Dr. Woodson brought to the audience’s attention a parallel between K-16 social studies and STEM education involving the use of representation to discuss racial diversity, equity, and inclusion. Utilizing the iconic song, Same Script Different Cast recorded by Whitney Houston and Deborah Cox, Dr. Woodson compared the messaging in the song to what she is noticing in K-16 STEM education—Whitney Houston, the previous partner of said individual warning Deborah Cox, the current partner of said individual, of his devious and duplicitous nature. Her observation was that as K-16 STEM education seeks to diversify its approaches to be more inclusive of racialized students, these fields are falling prey to the same trap that has possessed K-12 social studies education since the multicultural movement of the 1970s. That trap being the failed promises and missed opportunities of using representation as the tool for building inclusion or promoting equity. In this presentation, Dr. Woodson embodied the voice and messaging of Whitney Houston warning us STEM educators (Deborah Cox) of the impending threats of using representation as a sole tool or strategy.

Since that presentation, this notion of representation as a tool for promoting and supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion work has been at the forefront of my mind. As a Black male scholar whose research focuses on identity expression as it informs the retention and matriculation of Black women in STEM, I could not help but think about the ways in which representation is or becomes the de facto construct investigated within STEM education research or presented as the solution for promoting student engagement and continued participation. It is all too common to hear scholars, practitioners, and policymakers discuss ways in which we can increase the representation of diverse populations in STEM, cite statistics on the changes in representation of specific identity groups by STEM disciplines as evidence for diversity and inclusion success, or use role-models in STEM fields as a way to entice and attract racialized students by showing them that “they too can make it.”

3 Ways Intersectionality Can Help You Predict the Future (Or, at least provide you job security)

Knowledge, power, identity. What do these words mean to STEM? As a STEM education researcher, I’d say a lot. More so, as a Black woman, a mother, and a feminist who studies critical STEM education, I’d say they mean everything. See what happened there? Providing more information about who I am and how I view myself and the world contextualized the question I led with, and what’s important to me in STEM contexts.

Aligning New Educational Strategies to Evolving Workforce Needs (2018 PI Meeting Reflection)

HawkinsOn Thursday afternoon, I attended a panel discussion on “Today’s Education for Tomorrow’s College and Career Readiness.” The presentations and dialogue facilitated by the panel echoed some of the larger pragmatic themes articulated in the plenary session earlier that morning: how do we communicate about educational research and curriculum design effectively so that policymakers, teachers, and leadership within school sys

Technological Innovations for Mathematics Teacher Preparation (2018 PI Meeting Reflection)

In the topical session I attended on Thursday morning, the presenters (Dr. Herbst, Dr. Grosser-Clarkson, Dr. Zahner, and Dr. Goffney) described the LessonSketch platform, providing cases and studies demonstrating the potential of LessonSketch for prospective teachers’ professional preparation.

Broadening Participation in STEM

Broadening participation aims to strengthen the STEM fields and STEM literacy by engaging and building capacity in all people in STEM learning and professional training, particularly those from groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields. In this video, Odis Johnson, Leanne Ketterlin Geller, Cory Buxton, and Salvador Huitzilopochtli discuss the importance of giving underserved and underrepresented student populations opportunities in STEM and ways in which the field can make progress in this area.

The Importance of Early Mathematics Education

New evidence continues to emerge on the formative potential of the early years in a person's life. NSF is investing in programs to transform STEM teaching and learning in pre-K and the early grades. In this video, Arthur Baroody, Jere Confrey, Julie Sarama, and Paul Goldenberg discuss the importance of giving every child the opportunity to excel in math at an early age.


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