Supporting the development of a socially just STEM-literate society: Teachers perceptions of practice.

David Wooff, Michela Insenga, Sarah Wright, Dawne Bell

Research output: Contribution to conferenceLecture


Globally the supply of highly qualified STEM personnel is perceived as being vital in securing a countries' economic prosperity (Li 2014, Marginson et al 2013), but research suggests there are insufficient numbers studying STEM disciplines to meet demand (Stevenson 2014, Heitin 2014) fuelling concerns of an international STEM labour shortage (Mitchell 2015, Ritz and Fan 2014; Kennedy and Odell 2014). Women in particular remain an untapped resource for science and innovation (OECD, 2006:18), and set within the United Kingdom (UK), situated within the wider social and economic context against a background of policy reform and educational change, this paper builds upon previous research (Bell et al, 2015). This phase seeks specifically to understand how to best STEM subjects should be taught within compulsory education, in order to motivate all students irrespective of their gender or socio-economic background to undertaken STEM study beyond compulsory schooling, and ultimately embark upon a STEM career. Utilising the perceptions of participants currently working in industrially based STEM careers preliminary research sought to provide a basis for educators to help understanding of how to best STEM subjects in school should be taught. In this second phase, work sought to explore unconscious classroom bias, with the specific intention of exploring perceptions around social justice, inclusion and gender. Work set out to uncover participants beliefs in relation to equality of access to a high quality STEM experience, and then to explore the range in variation of classroom pedagogy. Constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz 2006), underpinned by an interpretivist ontology is the approach adopted for this study, and empirically grounded data is used to elicit stakeholder viewpoints. Emergent findings are discussed in relation to STEM education, current curriculum and its potential to help ensure the emergence of a socially just STEM-literate society. Outcomes from this study suggest that participants believe that in order to actively support the development of socially just STEM literate society, from which an increased number of STEM graduates may emerge, access for all to engage with stimulating STEM activity is essential in order to foster an appetite for future study within children.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2016
EventBritish Educational Research Association (BERA) Conference - University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Sept 201615 Sept 2016


ConferenceBritish Educational Research Association (BERA) Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • STEM education
  • social justice
  • gender
  • inclusion
  • grounded theory.


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