STEM Education

Principal Investigator
Lydia E Carol-Ann Burke


What are the key elements for planning equitable STEM education in the Greater Toronto Area?

This study, conducted through the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and in collaboration with the Ontario Science Centre, explores how leaders in STEM education in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) perceive STEM education and what strategies they see as key in supporting learners from social groups that are underrepresented in STEM to thrive. The findings provide 6 principles and 10 high priority considerations that establish a baseline for equitable program planning and development; these are applicable to the organizations participating in the study, the Ontario Science Centre, and the broader STEM education community.

Research Setting

Twenty educators, identified as leaders in STEM education within the GTA, were invited to participate in the study.

All participants had at least 3 years of experience working in the area of STEM education for marginalized learners with the majority having 6 to 10 years of experience. All of the participants had worked with organizations that support learners in the high school category and 90% also worked with children of elementary school age.

The participants came from five main institutional contexts: 

  • Leaders of independent, informal STEM education organizations;
  • Leaders in Indigenous STEM education (in formal or informal education settings);
  • Leaders in public informal STEM education institutions; 
  • School board STEM leaders; 
  • Leaders of university STEM outreach programs.

Research Approach

For this study we used a Delphi approach, soliciting the opinions of our participants on equitable STEM education through 3 rounds of individual Internet-mediated surveys over a 10-months period. After the first and second surveys, the responses were analyzed, refined and summarized. The summaries were then sent to the participants who were asked,

through the subsequent survey, to evaluate the comments contained in them.  A participant webinar was held prior to circulation of the third survey so that the participants could have a good grasp of how the data were collected, analyzed and summarized and the researchers could gather clarification of the opinions represented in the data.

Round 1 Sept/Oct 


Qualitative: survey

Round 2




open-ended responses


statement rating & ranking survey

Round 3



Summary overview

Webinar feedback/ discussion

Qualitative: open-ended responses

Quantitative: final ranking


From the analysis of the surveys and participant commentary, we were able to finalize 6 consensus statements that represent the experts’ views on STEM education and their suggestions about adaptations to STEM education that would facilitate more equitable provision for all learners.

Consensus statements (in random order)

Educators need to continue building their capacity with respect to the use of digital technologies, as demonstrated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Reform to teacher education and providing good quality teaching resources are fundamental aspects of increasing the engagement of marginalized youth

Educators need to recognise and be held accountable for prejudicial behaviours
(such as racism and sexism)

Representation matters: learners need to see mentors and role models who indicate that achievement is possible for people from their sociocultural background

Program evaluation feedback should come from learners, educators, and family/ community members

There need to be more people from STEM marginalized backgrounds in leadership positions

The experts also identified 10 high-priority considerations, representing what they believed to be 10 key elements for effective and equitable program planning. Those elements were ranked as shown below.

From the webinar discussion, we noticed that two main themes emerged: the relationship between community, interdisciplinarity, and real world connections; and the ‘westernization’ of STEM education. Participants spoke about the need to unlearn the idea of STEM education as neutral, allowing learners of different backgrounds to connect with STEM subjects in different ways to the ways in which the subjects are usually presented. However, we also noticed a gentle push-back exerted by some participants who expressed a preference to move forward from today, rather than being concerned about colonial histories and the suggested threat of Eurocentric traditions.


In this study we have derived a set of priorities and practices that are shared by STEM educators working with marginalized children and youth in the Greater Toronto Area.  The participants have suggested that prioritization of these concepts during curriculum planning is often neglected, particularly when educators  focus on the pieces of knowledge the learners are expected to take away.


The experts have suggested an effective approach to program planning that centres on the learning conditions, before focusing on the curriculum content, and that can be used as a response to issues of STEM marginalization in ways that are locally relevant, and research informed.


For further details on our study, read the final report “An Expert Panel Reports on STEM Education for Children and Youth from Marginalized Communities”.