STEM Education Hub

Seminars on the challenges to implement critical pedagogies in STEM education Our next event is a free two day series of seminars which aim to…
Read MoreGet In Touch

STEM Education Hub

Seminars on the challenges to implement critical pedagogies in STEM education

Our next event is a free two day series of seminars which aim to support STEM teachers to develop and implement critical pedagogies in classrooms. The seminar is bilingual and will have presentations from researchers based in Brazil and the UK. The programme for the two days is below, followed by further details on each session. Register for the seminars taking place on Zoom here.

Time (BST)Thursday 10 JuneFriday 11 June
13.00Welcome and Presentation (Arthur Galamba)Welcome and Presentation (Arthur Galamba)
13.15Isabel Martins (UFRJ)Ralph Levinson (UCL)
14.00Anna Canavarro Benite (UFG)Betzabe Torres-Olave (University of Bristol)
14.45Bruno Monteiro (UFRJ)Lindsay Hetherington (University of Exeter)
15.45Samuel Penteado Urban (UERN)Cristina Myers (Edtech hub)
16.30Haira Gandolfi (University of Cambridge)Spela Godec (UCL)


Thursday 10 June

Isabel Martins

In this presentation I focus on relationships between STEM Education and Education for Citizenship. I start by arguing that citizenship may be conceived and enacted differently in different countries depending on their model of democracy, sociocultural background and stage of economic development. I also question a reductionist linearity between STEM literacy, informed decision making and citizenship. Secondly, I point to examples where Education for Citizenship in some STEM Education programmes may be grounded upon neoliberal values, such as individualism and on practices such as consumerism, and discuss how these associations compromise ideals of transformation towards social justice. Finally, I explore elements of the dialectics between (i) structural elements and contexts of policy; and (ii) possibilities of critical reflective agency by both teachers and students in situated practices, with reference to experiences in contemporary educational settings in Brazil.

Anna Canavarro Benite

This presentation aims to explain and provoke debate about the importance of the field of natural sciences in the construction of emancipatory, plural and decolonial knowledge. This area of ​​knowledge also presents a discourse as well as themes through which Eurocentrism, so markedly present in our education systems, can be deconstructed. Decolonialism seeks to bring to the scene black personalities, information, knowledge and knowledge elaborated in formal education institutions as well as by traditional communities, based on the experiences of black people from the African continent or by children from the diaspora and that are often not divulged and thus hidden, generating a false feeling that only production from the European continent is the only one that exists. We believe that democratisation in education involves the insertion of subjects that are disregarded as subjects of knowledge.

Find out more about Anna’s research and work here.

Bruno Monteiro

The Decoloniality Movement in Science Education

From our studies and interlocutions, we have been reflecting on the coloniality of knowledge, that is, on the diverse epistemological implications that constitute the field of science education. Our reflections lead us to the perception of being impregnated in a praxis that imprisons us in Eurocentric epistemological models, for the time being, depoliticised, dehumanised and disciplinary, from a universal possibility of building knowledge in the field of Science Education.

Our studies and reflections based on the works of Lélia Gonzalez, Paulo Freire, Luiz Rufino, Frantz Fanon, Judith Butler, Ubiratan D’Ambrosio, Angela Davis, Enrique Dussel, Conceição Evaristo, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Walter Mignolo, Catherine Walsh, among others, do not lead us to think that we practice Science Education immersed in values and belief systems that have been imposed on us by colonial history explicitly and tacitly throughout our educational and training experiences.

Against these exclusionary models, studies of decoloniality and so-called epistemologies of the South emerge. We intend to provoke reflections in the area of science education on their epistemological bases and on new possibilities for facing contemporary and future challenges, especially in the face of cultural issues. , ethics and policies that naturally involve the processes of building knowledge as well as teaching and learning practices.

Samuel Penteado Urban

Popular Education, Science and Technology in Timor-Leste: contributions from Paulo Freire’s pedagogy

After decades of resistance against Portugal and Indonesia, Timor-Leste achieved the restoration of independence (2002) with the support of popular education, founded by the ideas of Paulo Freire. Inspired by this popular education, the main social movement of Timor-Leste – Peasants Union of Ermera (UNAER) – idealized the peasant popular university that has the Fulidaidai-Slulu economy as a principle. Thus, the objective of this work is to present about the existing relationship between Technology, Science and Popular Education in the context of the peasants of Timor-Leste, having as main focus the Fulidaidai-Slulu Institute de Economics (IEFS). Methodologically, this work is the result of participatory research, which started in mid-2013, when I worked on the construction of the IEFS curriculum, resulting in my master’s thesis. After entering the doctorate, I was able to return to the Asian country and teach the subject Popular Education in the same institute, continuing the research, focusing on Social Technology.

Haira Gandolfi

Paulo Freire and Decolonial perspectives: encounters in science education

While Paulo Freire’s works, and Critical Pedagogies more generally, have been explored within the Education field for the past five decades, more recently we have also seen the emergence of reflections about the links between education, schools, teaching, and learning and Decoloniality and Decolonial thought (e.g. ‘decolonise the curriculum’ movements). But what might the connections between decolonial and Freirean perspectives of education be? And what can they more specifically bring, if approached together, to science education (including curricula) in primary and secondary schools? In this presentation I will explore these questions grounded on a decolonial take on the Science and Technology Studies (STS) field and on Freirean perspectives about ‘knowledge’ and ‘critical consciousness’. I will start with reflections on what it means to ‘decolonise science’ from a socio-historical standpoint, and then illustrate its overlaps with Freirean proposals for education by briefly exploring a collaborative work on science curriculum development, teaching and learning with a teacher at a state secondary school in London/UK.

Find out more about Haira’s research and work here.

Friday 11 June

Ralph Levinson

We report on a research study carried out in the biosciences department of my university. 16-17 year old school students were asked to discuss in groups how they might approach a contemporary biomedical research problem prompted by inputs from a research scientist. Drawing on Chinn and Malhotra’s (2002) epistemic and cognitive criteria for scientific research we show that fruitful discussions of possible mechanisms and potential evidence result from authoritative scaffolding, willingness of participants to problematise, and collective elaboration of knowledge stimulating new research questions. Reconfiguring school knowledge was also a crucial factor. We have anecdotal evidence that needs further study that:

  • Students from schools in disadvantaged areas demonstrated more creativity in discussing research than students from more privileged backgrounds. These features were repeated in a study in Cyprus.
  • Students studying humanities together with science subjects tended to be more skilful at problematising and suggesting models.
  • Young women from an Islamic tradition were adept at critical analysis. Follow-up interviews pointed to the role of dialectics in Madrassas as a source of inspiration.
  • There was no correlation between reported academic ability and expertise in problem-solving.

We have plans to further test our findings in Brazil and UK.

Find out more about Ralph’s research and work here.

Betzabe Torres-Olave

As a commitment towards the transformation of educational spaces, critical pedagogies relate to who we are as science teachers, resisting and transforming structures and practices that reproduce injustices. In our initial education, we are educated and formed as a kind of science teacher, usually grounded in neoliberal values that frame the commitments we take on, rooted in narrow definitions of sciences pedagogies that value products rather than processes, learning as a set of information instead of developing a critical consciousness of our relationship with the natural world.

As a physics teacher myself, I struggled to find connections to develop and take a critical pedagogies stand in my science teaching. It was not until I collaborated with other teachers within and outside sciences that I realised what steps this position could entail. One of the aims of this presentation is to reflect on those problems and look for spaces to move towards an unmaking of those embedded neoliberal values as science teachers to start using the critical pedagogies lens when working with the science curriculum and considering the role of youth people in transforming the world towards social, epistemic, and environmental justice. Science teacher experiences will be shared as case examples.

Find out more about Betzabe’s research and work here.

Lindsay Hetherington

Exploring implications of a material-dialogic theory for science education for diversity

In my current research, I am interested in what we can learn about learning science in a range of contexts if we pay attention to the materiality and embodied practices of science and science learning. Current projects explore this in the context of environmental education (Ocean Connections Project) and transdisciplinary, creative approaches to science education (SciCulture and Creations projects). In this presentation, I draw on Karen Barad’s use of ‘diffraction’ (Barad, 2007) together with Bakhtin’s (1986) concept of the dialogic switch to think about what happens in learning through dialogue when we include material ‘voices’ in the dialogue. Developing the notion of a ‘diffractive switch’ as an extension of Bakhtin’s ‘dialogic switch’ to explicitly show the role of materiality within dialogue and illustrate this with some examples from current projects, I then question what science education might look like if different naturalcultural materials are drawn on for science education and how this might be mobilised to teach science in a more diverse and equitable way.

Cristina Myers

I started my PhD in 2016 with a single question; what would engaging, empowering and inclusive online education look like? I came across Critical Pedagogy when I was living in Brazil – I was very inspired by the power of this educational approach to enable learners to have agency over their learning, to use critical thinking as a tool to trigger reflection and transformative actions, and more importantly to create social and political change. This led me to spend three years exploring how to apply Critical Pedagogy to online learning – and I found the response to this question in virtual games and in the democratisation of technology design.

Why educational games? Games can be interactive; fun; they can allow players to explore different environments; to collaborate; to practice over and over again; to develop a sense of identity with their characters; they can also allow players to build relationships and experience engaging narratives. However, they cannot reach these outcomes if they are not designed by inclusive and diverse teams – this brought an additional challenge that required me to define how to enable novice groups to design virtual games.

My PhD presents the first framework to democratise educational game design. During this presentation, I will share how Critical Pedagogy could be applied to online learning through games, and how Critical Pedagogy can be used to democratise technology design as well as to create social and political change.

Spela Godec

Science Capital Teaching Approach for equitable teaching

This presentation will introduce the ‘Science Capital Teaching Approach’, co-developed with 60+ UK teachers. The approach focuses on engaging diverse students with science, especially those from minoritised backgrounds, who tend to be underrepresented in further science education and employment.

The approach builds on good teaching practice and draws on conceptual work including social constructivist theory and sociological work of Bourdieu, extended to ‘science capital’.

The approach is built on broadening what counts (eg what behaviours and skills tend to be valued in the classroom?) and three pillars: i) personalising and localising (moving beyond relating science teaching to general ‘real-world’ context to specific context that are meaningful to students), ii) eliciting, valuing and linking (drawing on students existing knowledge and experience, intentionally valuing these and supporting students to make links to curriculum science) and iii) building science capital (e.g., helping students understand transferability of science skills, encouraging engagement with science media and out-of-school science activities).

Equitable approach to teaching is not only about what you do, but how you do it. This presentation will give an overview of the ‘Equity Compass’ tool, designed to support teacher reflection on how equitable their teaching is and how they might develop their practice further.

Find out more about Spela’s research and work here.

Register your place

Register for the seminars here.

Lots of Ways to Get Involved.