Final Update on Our 2022 Equity in High School STEM Implementation Grantee Projects

As many of you know, for the past ten years the Beyond100K (formerly 100Kin10) network has been committed to working to end the STEM teacher shortage by mobilizing work in three catalyst areas: Teacher Work Environment, Foundational Math, and Equity in High School STEM. In 2022, in order to support partners to deepen and extend their collaborative work to address shared challenges related to the catalysts, we awarded five Implementation Grants that were focused on Equity in High School STEM. Last summer, we conducted interviews with the grantees and provided updates on their work to date here.

At the same time as we were beginning to award implementation grants, we were in the process of undertaking a massive participatory process to understand the experiences of young people who have been most excluded from STEM in order to craft the next moonshot goal. Belonging emerged as a central theme from our research, and while the focus of Beyond100K remains on addressing the STEM teacher shortage and the catalysts, centering belonging in STEM for Black, Latinx, and Native American students and teachers is of utmost importance.

As we kick off this new year, we are thrilled to share updates on these powerful grantee projects. It is exciting to note that though the implementation grant work began before we knew the important role belonging would play in our work moving forward, we have found inherent synergy between partners focused on work related to Equity in High School STEM and our new focus on fostering belonging in STEM classrooms. All of our grantees, whose projects are summarized below, address challenges that sit at the intersection of belonging and Equity in High School STEM. We are inspired by their work and are excited to share updates on how these projects have grown and flourished since our last update.

Implementation Grantee Summaries 

The following projects highlight the power in utilizing Instructional Practices as a method of fostering belonging in classrooms.

Advancing Equity in STEM Education

Rebecca Vieyra and the team from PhET Interactive Simulations at University of Colorado Boulder initiated this project to (1) Build off the work of the Empowering Teachers to Close STEM Education Opportunity Gaps with a Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) Toolkit and Instructional Strategies that Promote Classroom Equity project teams by co-designing an equity framework to align professional development offerings based on their learnings (2) Identify high school teachers that will serve as PhET STEM Equity Advocates to work with the PhET team, and (3) Design, deploy, and evaluate a 45-hour “Equity in STEM: PhET Virtual Workshop” for approximately 25 high school STEM teachers that has the potential to impact thousands of students nation-wide.

Rebecca and her team have been working tirelessly to accomplish all of their project goals! They have developed an equity framework that centers relevance, representation, and accessibility; this framework will be shared publicly on their new DEIB in STEM Education website soon. They have brought on two STEM Equity Advocates, Briana H. Clarke and Norman “Storm” Robinson, who also serve on their advisory board.

As part of PhET’s wider commitment to DEIB, all of PhET’s DEIB Advisors, including the STEM Equity Advocates, used the equity framework to evaluate the PhET simulations themselves; in future meetings, they will look at the resources they provide around the simulations as well as the professional development supports. This review feeds into the redesign of PhET’s Virtual Workshops which had previously been piloted in Mexico, Columbia, Lesotho, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ecuador, and seven countries in the Caribbean. With the Beyond100K funding, they have designed three new modules that will serve as precursors to the virtual workshops focusing on topics like establishing a teaching and learning climate in their classrooms, and examining implicit bias. They will pilot these modules with approximately 25 educators in February.

Since the initial grant from Beyond100K, they received $50,000 from the William and Flora Hewitt Foundation and an additional grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to expand upon this work. Rebecca notes that while there is always more work to be done, she is excited about the progress thus far. She has submitted an application to receive an NSF-funded Noyce Grant with Drexel University and the American Modeling Teachers Association and hopes to receive even more support for this work!

Exploring Contemplative Pedagogy

Sunyata Smith, a professor at Lehman College CUNY, led this project to address the lack of STEM belonging experienced by traditionally underrepresented groups, as well as the lack of multicultural competencies among educators from across the country, through the use of contemplative pedagogy. Sunyata created a bridge for bringing contemplative pedagogical practices that have been introduced in higher education to K-12 STEM educators via a virtual professional learning community. Seven STEM teachers from New York City came together approximately every other week this fall to first develop their own authentic contemplative practice, including mindfulness, self-reflection, and the examination of their own implicit biases about student learning. They then began to consider and plan for how to bring these practices to their own classrooms including the practices of contemplative reading, contemplative writing, and mindfulness. The hope is that these practices can be tools to help students’ focus and for student learning.

Because there is not a lot of practical work on bringing contemplative pedagogy to K-12 classrooms, Sunyata developed her own protocols to help teachers translate the practices they were learning and developing into classroom practices for students. She acknowledges that this is difficult work that takes time, and believes it’s important to give the proper amount of time for teachers to develop their own contemplative practice before implementing contemplative pedagogy. In addition to journal articles, Sunyata hopes to continue to expand this work and one day publish a handbook for educators to use in implementing their own contemplative practice and pedagogy.

Rethinking Intro to Education through a Racial Equity and Justice Lens

Dewayne Morgan (University System of Maryland), Allison Little (Massachusetts Department of Higher Education), Sophia Jeong (Ohio State University), and Zee Cline (California State University) expanded the work from their Rethinking Intro to Education through a Racial Equity and Justice Lens project team with this new project focused on supporting faculty to implement the course syllabus through a learning community. Specifically, their team investigated how shifting these courses from being a class about pedagogy and learning to one focused on the history of schooling through a racial equity and justice lens could appeal to a broader audience and bring more students of color into the teaching field.

The project team created a syllabus that can serve as a guide for professors who are interested in using this approach to teach their course. With this grant, the team brought together a group of four professors from Georgia State University, Augsburg University, Bridgewater State University, and University of South Florida to support each other in teaching the course during the fall semester. This kind of professional learning community is rare in higher education settings and the professors are thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded peers. In fact, the four of them submitted a joint proposal to present their work at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education in February 2023. 

The team has seen through this work that there is a genuine desire to see this course used as a vehicle for recruiting undergraduate students of color into the teaching profession by acknowledging and addressing their past educational experiences. They are eager to expand and advance this work with other faculty members and perhaps eventually via a partnership with AACTE. Future work might explore what a textbook for this course might look like, how to use this course as part of a secondary education transfer pathway, as well as how to include PD providers and high school teachers in this work.

The following team address Teacher Belonging as a method for fostering belonging for students.

Expanding Understandings of Mathematical Concepts, Algorithms, Histories and Cultures, to Pursue Solutions that Matter

Vanessa Cerrahoglu from the Orange County Department of Education led this project that brought 14 high school mathematics teachers, 1 math and science teacher, and 1 district-level administrator together for four virtual professional learning sessions this fall. The project fostered the ongoing partnership between Vanessa and Dr. Claudio Gomez-Gonzalez, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Carleton College, who led the sessions on fostering belonging in mathematics by honoring students’ identity, fostering a sense of student agency, and examining what stories get told in mathematics.

Using the well-known text 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions as a launching point, the sessions encouraged participants to critically examine their biases around what “counts” as mathematics, specifically, what pieces of student work get selected and included in a full-class mathematics discussion. Claudio also engaged participants in experiencing math language routines they could use in their classrooms such as “collect and display.” This strategy allows for the amplification of student voices in real time and encourages teachers to foster belonging by listening to students and building on the ideas they surface in the mathematics classroom.

The project not only provided support for teachers to attend the sessions but for additional resources that will enhance their ongoing work. The sessions also sparked collaboration outside of the group as well; one group of teachers from the same school met together to revise their probability unit based on what they learned in these sessions and Vanessa personally worked with one of the participants to co-develop student learning experiences in ethnomathematics that they hope will be infused into all mathematics courses in the district. Vanessa expressed deep gratitude for the opportunity to bring together this group of professionals and foster collective reflection around how the new ideas Claudio brought to the group resonate with the work they are already doing on behalf of students. She is already planning for version 2.0 that she hopes will build on this work next summer!

The following teams address how shifting one’s mindset can be a tool for fostering belonging for students.

Advancing Self-Advocacy Social Justice In STEM

Emily Dilger, the Chief Education Officer at Ignited, was inspired by fellow project team member Katherine Wilcox to continue the work of the Unconventional STEM Career Pathways community team with this grant. Together, the project team members created a toolkit to help teachers gain support from stakeholders for integrating inclusive pedagogy in STEM classrooms. Specifically, the toolkit provides background information on how to learn more about social justice and incorporate it in the classroom as instructional leaders. The resources section includes suggestions for finding supporters of bringing social justice into the STEM classroom, example anecdotes from other teachers, research-supported examples, and a stakeholder letter template for teachers to use to gather support for their own classrooms.

In preparation for the summer training, Ignited trained seven curriculum coaches on the toolkit. These coaches then disseminated the toolkit to around 100 educators via their eight-week summer program that connects STEM teachers with STEM industry professionals. The toolkit was a key resource in helping teachers build out lesson plans to take back to their classrooms and implement this fall. As part of the grant, Ignited also hosted a workshop for all of the teachers led by Kathryn Ribay, PhD, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at San José State University, on integrating social justice in the STEM classroom. The teachers were hungry for this kind of professional learning experience and were excited to take their learnings back to their classrooms.

Looking Ahead 

We hope you are inspired as we are by the incredible work of each of these grantees. We also have ten grantees who implemented projects related to the Foundational Math catalyst focus area; click here to learn more about the exciting work these grantees took on. We look forward to more of this type of collaborative work in the days to come as we embark on our next decade of work explicitly centering belonging in STEM. Stay tuned!