Considering Sources of Inequity
Today there are profound differences among specific demographic groups in their educational achievements and patterns of science learning, as in other subject matter areas. The reasons for these differences are complex, and researchers and educators have advanced a variety of explanations. We cannot address all of them in this chapter, so we focus instead on two key areas. The first links differences in achievement to differences in opportunities to learn because of inequities across schools, districts, and communities. The second considers how approaches to instruction can be made more inclusive and motivating for diverse student populations.
Other sources of inequity that are important but beyond the scope of this chapter are nevertheless important to keep in mind. For example, low learning expectations and biased stereotypical views about the interests or abilities of particular students or demographic groups also contribute, in both subtle and overt ways, to their curtailed educational experiences and inequitable learning supports [4-6]. Students’ own motivation and interest in science and engineering can also play a role in their achievement and pursuit of these fields in secondary school and beyond. Thus attention to factors that may motivate or fail to motivate students from particular demographic groups is important to keep in mind when designing instruction.
Students’ preparation in other subjects, especially literacy and mathematics, also affects their achievement in science. If some groups of students fail to become effective readers and writers by late elementary school, teachers have difficulty helping them to make progress—not only in science but also across all subject areas. These students fall further behind, and the problem for teachers grows more complex and challenging. Such dynamics can, in effect, reinforce the low-expectation tracking of students as they move through school, thereby significantly reducing their access to science and engineering pathways through K-12 and limiting the possibility of their going to college.
Students’ Capacity to Learn Science
But can all students aspire to the science and engineering learning goals outlined in the framework? Psychological and anthropological studies of human learning