Clemson University’s Center for Workforce Development (CUCWD-CA2VES) recently presented at the 2018 Next Steps Institute in Colorado Springs, CO. The conference, hosted by South Carolina’s Coalition for Mathematics & Science (SCCMS) and the Smithsonian Science Education Center, brings together leaders in education, technology, and teaching to learn and share best practices in STEM. This year, Next Steps Institute focused on how to make STEM learning more equitable in addition to developing STEM best practices, building STEM infrastructure, and engineering a STEM workforce pipeline.

CUCWD-CA2VES presented Making STEM Learning More Accessible which explored how a lack of equitable access to STEM learning prevents many students from entering a STEM career. Despite STEM careers showing one of the best areas of job growth with the best paying jobs, underrepresented groups such as women, African-Americans, Latinx, and American Indian youth lag significantly behind white men in entering STEM fields. Many of these students attend schools that do not provide the math and science skills they need as indicated by continued decline in standardized math and science scores. While a variety of factors contribute to this disparity including family and school culture and lack of resources, the key indicator driving this divide are teacher expectations of students and their performance.

After making the case for why access to STEM learning is inequitable, CUCWD-CA2VES used the rest of the session to encourage attendees to address inequity in STEM education using the five design principles for STEM learning. Attendees worked in groups to practice incorporating equitable design principles into their STEM learning projects so that by the end of the salon session, they had begun thinking about how to address inequitable access to STEM learning in their own learning setting.

The 2018 Next Steps Institute: The Next Steps for STEM Learning and Leadership conference helped CUCWD-CA2VES think more deeply about inequity in STEM learning. It challenged our organization to consider how we can use our organization to provide better access to STEM learning for all students.