Equity in K-12 Science Education
Access to high quality science education must be considered a basic human right. Such a statement is easily defensible, as:
- Globally, many of the pressing issues of our world (e.g., climate change, disease, transportation, food and water availability) are directly related to science fields.
- Many employment opportunities that can facilitate social mobility are concentrated in science fields.
- Historically, the institutional beliefs, values, norms, and practices of science have been defined by individuals from dominant groups and have generally excluded the beliefs, values, norms, and practices of those who identify with marginalized groups—to the detriment of society.
- Given their limited representational diversity, science spaces lack the epistemological and ontological perspectives needed to equitably identify and address science and science education challenges.
We believe that it is our responsibility to work towards equity in science education through the following recommendations.
- Promote discourse and educational spaces that facilitate pluralistic self-identification and representation: Learners’ ability to self-identify with science is directly related to their ability to holistically self-identify along multiple dimensions of identity (as opposed to discrete checkboxes). Increasing pluralistic representation and agency in systems and institutions of science and science education can foster learners’ self-identification.
- Improve access to technological infrastructure: Broadband internet access is critical to full participation in the modern educational ecosystem. The necessity to pursue innovations in educational technology and in best practice for its use is increasingly apparent, but such progress can only serve equity if the provision of equitable access to those innovations is made paramount.
- Promote the adoption of equity-centered, reformed curricula and teaching practices: For science learning environments to be equitable for marginalized learners, including multilingual learners, curricular materials and pedagogies must be culturally sustaining, leverage learners’ full linguistic repertoires, and value and promote multimodal forms of expression. Curriculum should promote greater depth of content (rather than breadth), pluralities of outcomes (rather than singular), and facilitate the development of critical thinking skills (rather than memorization).
- Design pre-service teacher and teacher leader preparation programs that explicitly address equity in science: Broadening the perspectives of teachers and teacher leaders requires the input of trainers with a critical lens toward current issues in science and science education. Training should focus on equity and inclusivity, stretching beyond the theories of white men traditionally associated with teacher preparation (e.g., Bruner, Ericsson, Vygotsky), and include the ideas of individuals from transformative perspectives.
- Improve access to high quality teachers by funding in-service professional development that supports science teachers: Immersive professional development opportunities that take place over the course of an academic year with 30+ contact hours better serve the needs of teachers, particularly when structured in ways that value teachers’ existing expertise, engage them in teacher-focused, professional community development, and facilitate their contributions to science education policy at all levels.
- Expand and support informal science learning: Informal science learning environments should be considered a necessary aspect of equitable science learning ecosystems. These environments can serve to link school science and community values, increase family interests in science fields, and support learners’ identification with science in a variety of contexts (e.g., parks, makerspaces, media, after-school programs).