The purposes of this conference are to organize scholarly work about equity in science education and to broaden the set of scholars in science education who have equity as a focus.
The purposes of this conference are to organize scholarly work about equity in science education and to broaden the set of scholars in science education who have equity as a focus. Equity has become a niche focus for many science education scholars, but the idea that science education should reach all students should be fundamental to all high quality teaching and learning. Scholars have documented policies and strategies that expand the diversity of individuals engaging in science. In turn, practitioners have incorporated these advances into science classroom practice. Better science learning opportunities can occur without diminishing expectations. However, many important projects are only known to local participants and a few outsiders. The conference will gather these scattered materials into a centralized collection. Producing consensus documents about equity-centered science education will provide a common body of knowledge. Having these shared referents will help to consolidate and coordinate research activity. Such documents will also have value for science education stakeholders engaged in professional development, policy enactments, and instructional reforms. The second purpose of this project is to plan for sustaining these efforts beyond the time of the conference. Because of current societal and educational dynamics, it is important to be strategic and planful about subsequent and synchronized ventures within an ongoing campaign for equity centered science education.
Demographical and institutional shifts make it necessary to attend to inequities within science education. Disparities by race and ethnicity are troublingly persistent in terms of representation in science careers, of college students majoring in science and engineering, by secondary school enrollments in advanced science courses, and in K-12 student outcomes on measures of science achievement. Such patterns are often reduced to deficit thinking about human potential. Deficit explanations are related to biased expectations by classroom teachers, inappropriate course tracking practices within secondary schools, uneven attention and support by college advisors and university faculty, and hostile work environments throughout academic and corporate STEM settings. In contrast, introducing asset mindsets about marginalized populations has the potential to contradict biased views about who can and cannot be successful in science. This project is creating a multifaceted mentoring initiative to assist scholars with maximizing impacts and sustaining themselves within their chosen professions. Among participants, there is considerable variety of career trajectories and depth of experiences. This diversity is creating a robust network of scholars from fields adjacent to science education: organizational change, school counseling, teacher leadership, technology education, and urban schooling. The conference is providing support mechanisms to increase scholars' human capital through an organizational infrastructure to foster the professional community's continued growth. Activities subsequent to this conference are continuing to support this community, maintaining equity at its core rather than an auxiliary feature of scholarship in science education.