Stories of becoming STEM teachers in Hong Kong: Gendered perspectives on teacher training and the classroom

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Abstract

In Hong Kong, improving STEM education has become timely since the government launched policy initiatives in 2016, which substantially impacted STEM education practices. Teacher education is of special importance in constructing the aspirations of pre-service teachers and offering professional training for a more gender equitable future in the era of STEM. Professional teachers are believed to be crucial for inspiring future students to use science and innovative technology with global and ethical awareness and for building student aspirations for STEM-related occupations and professions.

This paper reports on a study that used educational ethnography methods to examine the life stories (as cross-case studies) of eight pre-service, women teachers majoring in STEM-related programs at the largest teacher training university in Hong Kong. We applied a conceptual framework that explains the socio-cultural construction of STEM teacher identity. The iterative processes of thematic coding discovered 4 themes from the qualitative data of educational autobiography and follow-up interviews. They are (1) motivations for aspiring to become STEM teachers, (2) gender stereotyping and STEM performance, (3) gender and aspirations for teaching STEM, and (4) gender and STEM teacher identity.

Empirical findings of this study show that although gender inequalities within STEM education and the local education system are not readily apparent, gender stereotyping in STEM fields still exists in the society and schools of Hong Kong. Despite the availability of opportunities and resources for STEM education and teacher training, students in Hong Kong still hold subjectivities about gender disparities in science performance. Such gender biased perceptions of Hong Kong women students affect their everyday interactions and personal observations about gender differences and inequality. This paper illustrates how stereotypes about women in STEM can sometimes be perpetuated by everyday interactions in the classroom, especially when STEM teachers are not conscious of internalized stereotypes that are present in classrooms and schools.

As for the case of Hong Kong, it is even more timely to develop role models of women as active STEM educators and practitioners and democratize the worldview of STEM education and teacher identity. The education system is morally obligated to guarantee students of both genders the opportunity to achieve well-being. In the century of accelerating technological advancement, human capabilities for digital literacy as well as STEM literacy are of special importance to pursue and attain an improved well-being for our young women in STEM development. Achieving STEM aspirations through STEM teachers can be treated as equipping capabilities to accomplish functionings to overcome gender inequities in the STEM fields. Copyright © 2022 AERA.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Citation

Tang, H.-H. H. (2022, April). Stories of becoming STEM teachers in Hong Kong: Gendered perspectives on teacher training and the classroom. Paper presented at American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting (AERA 2022), San Diego, US.

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