A bit of both science and economics: a non-traditional STEM identity narrative
Black males, as one non-dominant population, remain underrepresented and less successful in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Researchers focused on non-dominant populations are advised against generalizations and to examine cultural intersections (i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, and more) and also to explore cases of success, in addition to cases of under-achievement and underrepresentation. This study has focused on one African American male, Randy, who expressed high-achieving STEM career goals in computer science and engineering. Furthermore, recognizing that culture and identity development underlie STEM engagement and persistence, this long-term case study focused on how Randy developed a STEM identity during the course of the study and the implications of that process for his STEM career exploration. Étienne Wenger’s (1999) communities-of-practice (CoP) was employed as a theoretical framework and, in doing so, (1) the informal STEM program in which Randy participated was characterized as a STEM-for-social-justice CoP and (2) Randy participated in ways that consistently utilized an “economics” lens from beyond the boundaries of the CoP. In doing so, Randy functioned as a broker within the CoP and developed a non-traditional STEM identity-in-practice which integrated STEM, “economics”, and community engagement. Randy’s STEM identity-in-practice is discussed in terms of the contextual factors that support scientific identity development (Hazari et al. in J Res Sci Teach 47:978–1003, 2010), the importance of recognizing and supporting the development of holistic and non-traditional STEM identities, especially for diverse populations in STEM, and the implications of this new understanding of Randy’s STEM identity for his long-term STEM career exploration.
KeywordsCommunities-of-practice STEM identity development STEM engagement Black males
The author thanks Randy for his understanding and willing participation in this research study, as well as advisers, faculty and staff from Boston College. The author also thanks Dr. Flavia Rezende, Dr. Katemari Rosa, and Dr. Michèle Foster for their help in revising earlier drafts of this work. This work was supported, in part, through grants awarded to Dr. Mike Barnett, specifically National Science Foundation Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program (Grants #0525040 and #0833624) and a Hewlett Packard Foundation Teaching with Technology Program (Grant #189660). This work was also supported by funding awarded to the YPAR program from the Peter J. Sharp Foundation and the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. The author, however, acknowledges no conflicts of interest in conducting this study and its publication.
- Barton, A. C., & Yang, K. (2000). The culture of power and science education: Learning from Miguel. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(8), 871–889. doi: 10.1002/1098-2736(200010)37:8<871:aid-tea7>3.0.co;2-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Brickhouse, N., Lowery, P., & Schultz, K. (2000). What kind of a girl does science? The construction of school science identities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(5), 441–458. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2736(200005)37:5<441:AID-TEA4>3.0.CO;2-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Cammarota, J., & Fine, M. (2008). Youth participatory action research: A pedagogy for transformational resistance. In J. Cammarota & M. Fine (Eds.), Revolutionizing education: Youth participatory action research in motion (pp. 1–11). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Du Bois, W. E. B. (2006). The souls of black folk. State College: The Pennsylvania State University.Google Scholar
- Emdin, C. (2011). Droppin’ science and dropping science: African American males and urban science education. Journal of African American Males in Education, 2(1), 66–80.Google Scholar
- Hrabowski III, FA. (2014). How to get more black men into science. Chronicle of Higher Education. 61(9), B22–B23. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=99106663&site=ehost-live.
- Johnson, C. C., Peters-Burton, E. E., & Moore, T. J. (2015). STEM road map: A framework for integrated STEM education. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Lent, R., Brown, S., Sheu, H.-B., Schmidt, J., Brenner, B., Gloster, C., et al. (2005). Social cognitive predictors of academic interests and goals in engineering: Utility for women and students at historically black universities. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(1), 84–92. doi: 10.1037/0022-022.214.171.124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Nasir, N. S., & Shah, N. (2011). On defense: African American males making sense of racialized narratives in mathematics education. Journal of African American Males in Education, 2(1), 24–45.Google Scholar
- National Science Board. (2016). Science and engineering indicators 2016. Arlington: National Science Foundation (NSB-2016-1).Google Scholar
- President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). (2010). Prepare and inspire: K-12 education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for America’s future. Washington, D.C.: Executive Office of the President.Google Scholar
- Valla, J. M., & Williams, W. M. (2012). Increasing achievement and higher-education representation of under-represented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields: A review of current K-12 intervention programs. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 18(1), 21–53. doi: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2012002908.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Wenger, E. (1999). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar