What can we do to combat inequality?
Know our prejudices concerning STEM
With regard to STEAM, which student do we consider promising and which do we have the lowest expectation of? How do these beliefs match the image of the STEM professionals we have in mind? We
could record a video in a science or maths class and then analyse it afterwards. To see whom we address and whom we do not, and how we give explanations and answers. To try to identify a pattern of behaviour.
Build a relationship of trust with the students
When teachers show confidence in the ability of their students it has a positive influence on their performance. This is especially important in STEAM, where students are encouraged to analyse
new situations, tackle difficult problems and take risks with their ideas. The most powerful teaching tool is to dedicate time and attention effectively.
Take advantage of students’ extracurricular knowledge and interests
Every student has ideas about the world and how it works, based on their own extracurricular experiences. Making connections between extracurricular and school STEAM experiences is an excellent
strategy, as not only does it make them more motivated, but it also makes the projects more meaningful. The students’ knowledge does not necessarily have to be correct or accurate, as erroneous beliefs are equally valuable for combining them with new ideas. Encourage the students to express their ideas and thoughts in different ways, such as through presentations, role play, drawings, etc.
Group the students in different ways for STEAM activities
Although school culture tends to reward individual effort and achievement, in our society -and even more so in the STEM professions of the 21st century- work is based on cooperation and collaboration.
It would be a good idea to have both boys and girls with different backgrounds, ethnicities and languages to work together.
Show examples of similar roles
We should conduct our own studies on the situation of women and minorities, and not wait to receive reports on gender perspective.
Show and talk about STEM professions
Avoid stereotypical images of professionals in the STEM field (for example, a talented white man who spends his day working in his laboratory). Instead, give examples of other STEM professionals that students can connect with more, such as women, young people, those that break the stereotypes, etc.
Invite STEM professionals to the classroom or take students to their workplaces
We can invite STEM professionals (preferably from an under-represented group) related to a project the students are working on. We can help the students prepare questions for the STEM professional, such as “why did you decide to become a __“, and “what do you like best about your job, and why?”
Analyse STEAM-related news articles that we see on the Internet
STEAM-related news articles from the Internet send a strong message to students. We can share and discuss them, keeping in mind the gender and diversity perspective.