New guide to create inclusive STEM classrooms

12 October 2020

Written by: Aisling O'Mahony

Education Services Australia releases a Girls in STEM Toolkit.

The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is important for economic growth, with STEM-skilled jobs growing 1.5 times faster than other industries.

However, women are underrepresented in these jobs and the problem arises in secondary school, where 32 percent of females are choosing STEM subjects, compared to 70 percent of males.

Globally, 35 percent of students enrolled in STEM subjects are women and in Australia, 16 percent of women make up the STEM-skilled workforce.

Education Services Australia (ESA) has released the Girls in STEM Toolkit (GiST), a guide of classroom strategies for inclusive STEM learning environments, to address the gender disparities in STEM.

The new guide was developed by ESA in collaboration with the University of Adelaide and outlines seven key principles that were developed to create a gender-inclusive learning environment.

  1. Creating a gender-neutral learning environment.
  2. Ensuring everyone engages in hands-on learning.
  3. Designing learning experiences to embrace context and problem-solving.
  4. Connecting learning to careers and role models.
  5. Engineering collaborative learning.
  6. Providing choice and creative opportunities to demonstrate learning.
  7. Encouraging a growth mindset.

The seven principles are based on a review of literature and research published over the last five years about STEM education engagement, with a particular focus on young women.

Dr. Rebecca Vivian, Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide, says that the jobs of the future require people with STEM skills but research has shown that uptake is low among many young Australian students.

“This guide presents practical evidence-based strategies and resources that teachers can use to turn the GiST seven principles for a gender-inclusive classroom into one where all learners have the potential to thrive in STEM,” she said.

The barriers preventing young women from pursuing careers in STEM include; stereotypes, biases, a lack of role models in the field, a limited understanding of STEM careers, disengagement from STEM education and family influences.

CEO of Education Service Australia, Andrew Smith, believes the guide will have an impact on both teachers and students as it will work towards breaking down the barriers outlined above.

“Supporting teachers to create inclusive STEM learning environments and increase participation in STEM activity by girls is imperative to inspire more girls and women to enter fields of study and careers in STEM,” he said.

Photo: Classroom 2nd fl by Colleen available HEREand used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.