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Critically Reading a Middle School STEM Project through a Gender Lens

Stacia M Stribling, Sheri Berkeley, Leigh Ann Kurz, Amanda Colburn


This study is situated within a larger research project that looked at the self-regulation cycle of middle school students who were taught to create their own serious educational games about science.  The purpose of the current analysis was to use a gender lens to “critically read” a theme that emerged during the larger science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) project.  Using a critical literacy framework enabled the researchers to better understand the structures that have complicated female participation in the science field, and specifically in the world of gaming as an access point into the science field. Taken together, findings showed a reluctance on the part of the students to engage in conversation related to sociopolitical issues.  Specifically, students were reluctant to disrupt the commonplace stereotypes and assumptions that were woven into the alpha gaming platform developed by a gaming company for the larger study.  Implications from these findings suggest that creating an inclusive environment in STEM is complex due to a host of messages, images, experiences, and barriers with which females (and males) must contend. Schools can provide the space to begin addressing these issues in order to move the field toward gender inclusivity. The current findings have similar implications for other populations that are under-represented in STEM fields, including persons with disabilities.


STEM; secondary education; special education; gender

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