Youth Enacting Social-Spatial Justice in Middle School STEM: Advancing Justice Work in Hyperlocal and Interscalar Ways

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Edna Tan, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: While issues of (in)justice in K12 STEM learning have garnered increasing attention, limited research has attended to learning as social-spatial transformation. We draw upon a justice-oriented framework of equitably consequential learning to call attention to how learning and engagement in K12 STEM is rooted in the history and geographies of young people’s lives. Without attention to the ways in which learning is an historicized and sociopolitical activity, efforts to address seemingly intractable equity challenges in K12 STEM education across the intersections of racial and class inequality will remain elusive. Using data from middle school classroom studies focused on engineering for sustainable communities, where community ethnography is central to engineering design, we investigate the social-spatial relationalities that minoritized youth bring to engineering design, and how relationalities may support youth in transforming oppressive knowledge and power structures toward equitably consequential learning. Findings reveal that organizing learning engineering design around youths’ rich everyday experiences and community wisdom through community ethnography, addressed hyperlocal, sociopolitical community challenges. As a result, the social-spatial terrain upon which subject-object relations are enacted shifted, expanding the discourses, practices and outcomes of middle school engineering design that were legitimized. Making present this power-mediated terrain makes visible the often hidden, but ever present, unjust school-based relationalities, enabling them to be re-mediated in justice-oriented ways. Paying attention to social-spatial relationalities reveal (1) the multiple scales of activity, (2) inter-scalar mobilities and interactions, and (3) possible resultant impacts of such interactions that further affect activity at each scale. We discuss implications for how theories of equitably consequential learning can be advanced through the frame of social-spatial justice.

Additional Information

Cognition and Instruction, 41(1)
Language: English
Date: 2022
social-spatial transformation, middle school students, STEM education, social justice, engineering

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