Monday, July 4, 2016

Racial Consciousness in STEM Classrooms

When defining a teacher’s role in designing and facilitating a classroom’s dynamics, it is important to note both course design and instruction (Haynes, 2013). Teachers need to have a high level of racial consciousness in order to promote STEM equity for students of color. Joseph, Haynes, and Cobb (2016) describe the importance of inclusion and racial discourse for all teachers and grade levels; however, they specify their research to “faculty who teach science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), including those who train pre-service teachers seeking licensure in that discipline” (p. 2). Their STEM system conceptual framework (see Figure 5) “plays a critical role in diversifying [the] labor force by increasing participation in STEM among racially minoritized students” (Joseph, Haynes, & Cobb, 2016, p. 2).

Figure 5. STEM system conceptual framework. Graphically designed by N. Joseph, 2015, to explain the STEM system as a White institutional space.

Transforming STEM education in order to increase participation in STEM among racially minoritized students, will undoubtedly disrupt White institutional space. Haynes and Joseph (2016) describe that especially in higher education “the STEM system functions as White institutional space that positions Whiteness as normal, reproduces hegemony, and contributes to the differing of experiences among students based on race” (Martin, 2008; McGee & Martin, 2011; Moore, 2008; Tate, 1994; Terry, 2010). Reforming education, then, means reforming STEM systems of thinking, using it as disruptive innovation. “A system-wide shift to claiming STEM as a disruptive innovation calls for students to become engaged in their learning as explorers, who share their learning with each other and with authentic audiences to serve real purposes” (Berkowicz & Myers, 2016). By displacing the STEM status quo, teachers, administrators, and other school leaders must increase their racial consciousness, and that of the school system, in order to impact STEM teaching and learning, ultimately expanding the STEM pipeline for students of color.