Australian secondary STEM education in the 21st century : female participation in the ‘T' within STEM

  • Lillian Everitt

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis explores issues of gender within technology education. If we are to achieve more from our students, and to expect that their contribution be based on creativity, innovation and design cultures, then teacher education and professional development needs to also be creative and innovative in its execution of curriculum and professional development. A mixed-methods approach is utilised as an umbrella allowing the application of social constructivism/critical theory as paradigms allowing for the application of a feminist philosophical standpoint. The research utilises researcher-teacher critical reflective analysis of student key projects as qualitative data. Firstly, researcher-teacher reflective analysis of students projects produced in technology classroom-workshop environments over five schools spanning years 7 to 12 examines student learning outcomes and engagement, supported by extensive photographic evidence of student project work. Secondly, state by state data of student participation, obtained from state boards of studies or equivalent, provides a quantitative analysis of student participation rates in various technologies subjects at the year 11-12 level which illustrate the low female participation rates in these subjects. To address issues of low female participation, and based on the outcomes of critical reflective analysis of student work, this thesis proposes a new teaching framework, feminist epistemology within design innovative technologies (FEDIT), which targets the establishment of high possibility teaching practices for increased student engagement in the Technology aspects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) (i.e. the “T” within “STEM”). The FEDIT framework provides a feminist pedagogical approach which is built upon the high possibility classrooms framework. The FEDIT framework acts as a catalyst for teachers to increase participation, especially of female students, in STEM domains and specifically in classroom and workshop settings. The author has applied the framework in the classroom in the ACT in conjunction with the Australian curriculum - Technologies. Combining the research analysis and data allowed for the author to build upon theoretical educational frameworks contributing to the findings emphasising that the proposed FEDIT framework evolved out of the research within student classroom engagement within the schools involved in this study. The framework acts as a final conceptualisation underpinned ii by infusion of social constructivism/critical theory and feminist theory deriving and built upon the high possibility classroom framework. This thesis further addresses key issues within schools which influence female participation in STEM domains, these being the roles of school career counsellors; the need for improved teacher training and specifically pre-service teacher training; and the critical role played by school principals, and the influences of peer pressure and social media. The findings of this study provide a combination of theoretical, statistical, and practical analysis which can be used as part of a teacher’s pedagogical toolkit for application within technology classroom-workshop settings, supporting, through a student–teacher partnership, improved female participation rates and engagement through positive engagement within technologies disciplines.
    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBill Green (Supervisor) & Eddi Pianca (Supervisor)

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