Chapter 6: STEM Beyond the Acronym: Ethical Considerations in Standardizing STEM Education in K-12

Jennifer Ansorger

The American education system has undergone numerous iterations over the years. From the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 to the Back to Basics movement (and it’s emphasis on the 3 R’s — reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmatic), educational trends have influenced decision-makers to design and build programs in the hopes of improving student outcomes on standardized tests. Over the past few decades, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) has been a widely discussed program in education (Blackley & Howell, 2015; Breiner et al., 2012; Bybee, 2013). However, STEM has yet to be truly defined, since government officials, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders have varying perspectives of what STEM is and how it should look in the classroom (Breiner et al., 2012). STEM is viewed in a variety of ways that are dependent on stakeholders and on ethical considerations — which causes tension when trying to create a unilateral definition in order to better direct teaching practice.

Some argue that standardizing STEM would result in teaching silos (Blackley & Howell, 2015; Bybee, 2013) with little diversity of thinking, leading to STEM subjects being taught as four separate subjects with assessments conducted through standardized testing. Blackely and Howell (2015) argue that “teachers have defaulted to the notion of S.T.E.M. rather than STEM,” where the full stops “signif[y] . . . the silo-ing of the four distinct discipline areas, rather than their integration” (p. 104). By teaching science, technology, engineering, and math as separate subjects (or silos), the learning experience shifts from being interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and integrated, to one that is focused on an individualized curriculum (Bybee, 2013) that “reflects decisions made centuries ago, especially around science and mathematics” (Davis et al., 2019, p. 3). Others argue that to truly meet the needs of learners, a foundational approach or mindset that weaves STEM throughout all subject areas is crucial. This orientation creates a comprehensive curriculum that utilizes a transdisciplinary approach with an objective that “resolve[s] real world or complex problems . . . provide[s] different perspectives on problems” (Choi & Pak, 2006, p. 351), and requires insights and perspectives from more than one discipline (Davis et al., 2019).

This chapter will consider the ethical implications of STEM education (silo versus mindset approach) in the US and its impact on learners, with special consideration for gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic standing. When determining how to define STEM education, who should be responsible for determining best practices and the future direction that education should take? Decisions need to be made to meet the needs of the learners themselves, not based on funding nor global positioning. There are multiple ethical implications when creating a standardized curriculum for STEM without considering all of the stakeholders (i.e. students, parents, and educators). This standardization could create a larger achievement gap among minority groups, girls, and those in lower socioeconomic districts. The push for a standardized definition of STEM as a silo, with standardized testing being the gauge of effectiveness, has illustrated the disparity between gender, socioeconomic, and ethnic groups. In the US, various programs have been designed to promote STEM education for girls [New Tab] and minority groups [New Tab]; however, males and the privileged classes still continue to dominate in STEM careers and industries (Building America’s Future, n.d.; Chang, 2019; Maclean, 2017).

Full Disclosure

STEM is an umbrella concept that incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. How STEM education is actually incorporated into different schools and districts varies. The original implementation of SMET in the US was led by the National Science Foundation (NSF); the acronym was later changed to STEM (Bybee, 2013; Sanders, 2009) in the 1990s in response to a need to strengthen science and math education. Until the early 2000s, few people understood the term STEM and many linked it to stem cell research and plants (Bybee, 2013; Sanders, 2009). STEM, when taken verbatim, refers only to the four subject areas. For the purpose of this chapter, the focus will be on STEM education, which is an important distinction.

One impetus for the growing STEM education trend came in reaction to the results of the early PISA [New Tab] test results. The scores on these tests, in addition to a belief in a shortage of people to work in STEM-related fields, prompted the implementation of STEM education in K-12 schools around the world (Williams, 2011). In the US, STEM education became a focused trend to shift “American students from the middle to the top of the pack [internationally] in science and math over the next decade” (The White House, 2009, para. 1) by raising test scores. Another priority was to meet the perceived STEM crisis — a lack of skilled workforce to fill the growing specialized job market (Jadav, 2013; The STEM Crisis & Our Solution, 2020; Xu, 2015). The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2008) claimed that STEM education was the key to success in the 21st Century, and that without a “charge to action,” the US would be left behind in the global market. This charge to action has led many schools in the US to focus primarily on teaching each subject as a silo, with small pockets of schools and districts forging their own mindset path (Cherry Creek School District [CCSD], n.d.). This push for STEM education raises many ethical concerns regarding privacy, autonomy, and best practices for our students.

STEM as a foundational way of thinking focuses on students iterating; collaborating; and using science, technology, engineering, math, and humanities in an interdisciplinary way to solve real-world problems (Davis, 2019). STEM as an inquiry-based integrated method of teaching these subjects is not necessarily a new concept. In the 1990s, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2009) published a series of benchmarks for science literacy. They believed that:

The common core or learning in science, math, and technology

should focus on science literacy, not on an understanding of each

of the separate disciplines. Moreover, the core studies should include

connections among science, math, and technology and between

those areas and the arts and humanities and the vocational subjects. (p. xii)

Sanders (2009) argues that STEM should be taught with the mindset of “purposeful design and inquiry” (p.21), which incorporates all areas within the STEM umbrella. The integration of the disciplines can provide students with the opportunity to explore and develop potential solutions to global issues, such as renewable energy sources and climate change (Davis, 2019). In districts such as Cherry Creek Schools in Centennial, Colorado, this remains the focus of their STEM program. They see STEM as a focused way of teaching that “instills a deep and extensive understanding of STEM content applied in real-world contexts” (Cherry Creek Schools District, n.d., para. 2).

The term STEM has been used and reused so many times that its meaning has become ambiguous (Bybee, 2013; Sanders, 2009). One school’s STEM program can look very different from another. One school can have access to robotics, 3D printers, and one-to-one student laptops. Their program can focus on the T of STEM but have little to no incorporation of design thinking or science and math (indicating a silo approach). Another school can have very little technology but has students ideating, building, and conversing about real-world problems (foundational thinking). As there is no universal definition of STEM, there is a wide variety of ways in which it is being incorporated into schools. From this ambiguity emerge several ethical issues that need to be considered.

Connection of STEM Education in Teaching and Learning to Privacy, Data Security, and Informed Consent

When determining a standardized definition for STEM, the agenda of stakeholders can greatly influence the direction this standardization takes. One way of influencing how STEM is defined is through funding. Funding from sources such as Google,, and other companies in Silicon Valley has been influential in pushing STEM education in the US (Caperton, 2012), as illustrated by the most recent $300 million of funding in 2017. The motives behind a companies’ investment in STEM education can be considered from an ethical perspective. Some argue that Silicon Valley and subsequent tech giants are pushing their own agendas and have ulterior motives for this funding. One such agenda focuses on the money that can be made by pushing the T in STEM education, which in many iterations refers only to computing. When schools focus on the T in STEM, they essentially buy into the programs and products on the market. This push for technology can lessen the time spent in the collective work needed to unify STEM as a foundational way of thinking, and can create a market in which money must be spent in order to ensure that schools have the latest and greatest technology — technology that continually changes and requires constant upgrading.

Through its ease of use, more affordable devices, and an easily manageable platform, Google for Education [New Tab], which includes Google Classroom and G Suite, has been adopted by many school districts around the US, as well as other countries around the world. It has been marketed as a platform that “focuses on creating the best educational experience for over 70 million students and teachers in more than 180 countries” (Google for Education, n.d.). However, some critics consider whether this accessibility is really free. Tech giants, such as Google, have digital dominance and can effect the economy, society, and politics (Moore & Tambini, 2018), and education (Villapaz, 2014). For example, teachers can use Google to manage classes, share homework, and create shareable, collaborative projects for students without any cost to the school or parents. Ethically, it is important to consider the possible benefits Google might receive with the “free” access provided to students and teachers. Google has faced many lawsuits over the years due to its data mining without parental consent. In September 2019, Google paid out $170 million to the state of New York [New Tab] in response to allegations that Google and YouTube “earned millions by illegally collecting personal information from children without their parents’ consent” (Elias & Feiner, 2019, para. 1). More recently, new lawsuits have been filed by New Mexico’s state attorney general [New Tab] alleging that “the tech company is illegally collecting personal data generated by children in violation of federal and state laws” (Bryan, 2020).

Ethical Considerations of Privacy, Data, and Security When Schools and Districts Focus on the T (Computing) in STEM

When considering the emphasis of the T in STEM education from a deontological ethical perspective (Farrow, 2016) or in term of moral obligation, the T could be considered a money-making strategy employed by big business, most notably big business out of Silicon Valley. Through the use of its devices and free apps, Google has been collecting information from and about students under the age of 13. Their data mining includes [New Tab] “search history and which results students click on, videos they search for and watch on YouTube, usage data and preferences, Gmail messages, G+ profiles and photos, docs, and other Google-hosted content, and content that flows through Google’s systems” (Electronic Frontier Foundation, n.d., para. 7). The means through which Google is learning about future consumers are justifiable, as they are a money-making enterprise. They are using this information to build profiles and to focus advertisements on non-education suite websites such as YouTube. Through these profiles, Google can expand its database and focus advertisements to target consumerism; this, in turn, brings in revenue for the company. This mining of children’s data could be considered a justifiable means to an end. The revenue that companies like Google earn far outweighs the ethical implications of collecting this data.

From a consequentialist ethical perspective (Farrow, 2016), the consequences — the invasion of student privacy with and without parental consent by these companies — far outweigh the financial gain. There are state and federal acts, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), in place that work to protect minors from the collection and use of their private information. However, these policies are limited in their scope and can at times be ineffective at protecting students (Regan & Jesse, 2019). The lack of transparency from big data companies regarding their collection and use of the data makes it extremely difficult for lawmakers to prove probable cause (Regan & Jesse, 2019). The nature of technology and the tightly guarded algorithms that companies use have created a new world, where laws and acts to protect children are ultimately ineffective. The continually changing nature of technology and the sophistication of big data algorithms make it difficult for parents and minors to truly know what they are agreeing to when they click “agree” below the terms of use. The legalese and sophisticated language mask the underlying agreement. When students and parents agree, do they truly understand what they are agreeing to? Not only are minors being tracked and profiled within Google’s education suite, they are also losing their autonomy. With access to photos, emails, Google maps, etc. — student anonymity is being lost.

Is it ethical for companies to use information garnered from minors to earn profit and nudge them towards particular brands or advertisements? From a virtues perspective (Farrow, 2016), it is an individual’s right to full disclosure, privacy, and autonomy, especially when considering those under the age of majority. Parents, schools, and government bodies are morally obligated to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and to act ethically. Children essentially lose this protection when the door is opened for big data companies to access a their data, parents, schools, and government bodies. Educational use of software and hardware, such as ChromeBooks and Google for Education, invites these companies into our schools under the guise of supporting learners. However, there are potential conflicts of interest as edtech companies work with the schools and teachers while at the same time working with districts, researchers, and shareholders. Is this conflict of interest working to protect our students?


When STEM is defined with the T as its focus, students become vulnerable to considerable issues around privacy, consent, and autonomy. Through the use of programs such as Google Education, students and teachers receive easy access to a wealth of free online apps advertised to make online learning simpler and more collaborative. These apps grant students and teachers the ability to access a plethora of online programs for free. However, through signing up and clicking “I accept” to the terms of use for each of these programs, students unwittingly give access to companies to data-mine and track every click. When we focus on the T, money is continually funnelled back to companies in Silicon Valley and to other tech giants through the purchasing of licenses, laptops, iPads, and robots. In addition to school spending, these companies profit from advertisements are driven by clickbait and tracked student searches. If STEM is defined as a mindset, however, the use of and reliance on technology becomes lessened, as students look at real-world problems from an interdisciplinary lens, not filtered through technology.

Connection of STEM Education in Teaching to Educational Integrity by Avoiding Harm and Minimizing Risk

Since the early 2000s, government funding programs aimed at improving test scores and deepening the teaching of STEM in K-12 and postsecondary institutions (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2010). To meet these needs, the federal government has viewed STEM not as a mindset, but rather as the strengthening of each individual subject under its own umbrella (as a silo). Defining STEM as separate subjects allows for a greater focus on the core subjects and creates a standardization of practice. This standardization can lead to a standardized assessment tool (tests) that have been used historically to track student progress and could lead to gradually increasing sanctions and/or school closures (Duignan & Nolen, 2019; Famularo et al., 2013).

This standardization of practice does not always consider gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. When responding to multiple-choice test questions, students are unable to bring their social narratives or real-life experiences to bear. Rather, only one answer is correct, thus limiting diversity of thinking and providing no option for students to think outside of the box to solve the problem. Examining these initiatives reveals that they have not changed teaching of STEM subjects much at the classroom level, nor have they greatly increased student interest in the subjects (Breiner et al., 2012). When considering these initiatives and the limited improvement of test scores on a global scale, there appears to be a disconnect between these policies and the reality of teaching 21st-century students. This raises the question of who should be making these policy decisions.

Ethical Considerations When Determining a Standardized Definition of STEM as a Silo

From a deontological ethical perspective (Farrow, 2016), this standardization of practice and assessment will allow the US to track students and educators which will then help determine who is underperforming and what sanctions are needed to improve individual schools and districts. The intention of these sanctions (Duignan & Nolen, 2019) is to push educators to better prepare their students in the core subjects (science, math, and reading). This view argues that the means to which test scores are improved outweighs the moral implications.

On the other hand, if we look at the standardization of STEM into its component subjects from a consequentialist ethical viewpoint (Farrow, 2016), data from the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (OECD) shows that there has been no major improvement in science and math test scores in the US even with massive federal funding over the past twenty years for STEM education. From this perspective, pushing STEM education as separate core subjects has not resulted in improved of test scores, and the US continues to rest solidly in the middle of the pack.

According to ethical virtue theory (Farrow, 2016) the standardization of STEM education is detrimental to our students’ learning. By narrowing the definition of STEM to its component subjects, students are not encouraged to tackle real-world problems from an interdisciplinary standpoint. Students are relegated to a number on a paper that does not take into consideration diversity, culture, nor gender. Should one test written each year determine the future educational trajectory of a student? From this perspective, students should be assessed using a variety of tools and instruments that can effectively account for multiculturalism, ability, and diversity of thinking. A standardization of STEM and subsequent assessment has limited ability to bring in multiculturalism and divergent thinking. This brings to light a need for more culturally responsive education (CRE). CRE is defined as, “a student-centred approach to teaching in which the students’ unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student’s cultural place in the world” (Lynch, 2016, para. 2). Culturally responsive education provides students with the opportunity to use their own experiences and backgrounds to guide their learning.

Figure 6.1 TEDx talk by Isael Torres focused on cultural pedagogy and educational access and equality


The use of standardized tests to assess capabilities has worked against creating a cohesive, accessible curriculum. Instead of unifying STEM into a foundational way of thinking and creating a curriculum that honours it, STEM continues to be rather ambiguous in its definition, resulting in a heavy reliance on teaching the individual subjects. The tracking of students through a standardized test format has not resulted in an improvement for the US in global standings, nor has it unified the diverse groups of students that make up US schools. Rather, it has disaggregated students based on ethnicity, English language proficiency, socioeconomic status, and gender (Ansell, 2011; Miller, 2013). Failing to consider the diversity of thought and experience negates of the human side of the student population. Test scores are being used as the benchmark for policy decisions (Duignan & Nolen, 2019), which does not necessarily align with what is best for students. The use of standardized testing “has become entrenched in our society, and the collection of such data has exploded in its frequency, in its undue influence on the curriculum, and in its use for making life-impacting decisions about children, teachers, administrators, and schools” (Miller, 2013, para. 5). Foundational thinking and innovative teaching pedagogy provide the opportunity for CRE to be integrated into teaching practice. Teaching in a silo limits the capacity for divergent thinking and students’ cultural strengths to be utilized.

Connection of STEM Education in Teaching to Respect for Participant Autonomy and Independence

Though STEM education at the K-16 level has continued to expand, and numerous programs have been created to promote STEM with girls and women, there continues to be a gender gap in STEM fields and careers (Archer et al., 2012; Chang, 2019; UNESCO, 2017). Research has noted numerous reasons for this gap, not limited to gender stereotypes (Shapiro & Williams, 2011; UNESCO, 2017), earning discrepancies (Xu, 2015), teacher bias, and a lack of female voice in STEM programming. Figure 6.2 highlights the “ecological framework of factors influencing girls’ and women’s participation, achievement and progression in STEM studies” (p. 40).

Figure 6.2 Framework of the factors influencing the participation, achievement, and progression of girls in STEM, adapted from “Cracking the code girls and women’s education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem)” (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2017)
Children are exposed to gender stereotypes in the STEM fields from a early age. These stereotypes inadvertently lead to a tendency to associate science and math skills as male-dominated skill sets, which in turn lead to stereotype threat (Gunderson et al., 2011; Shapiro & Williams, 2011). Stereotype threat is defined as “a concern or anxiety that one’s performance or actions can be seen through the lens of a negative stereotype — a concern that disrupts and undermines performance in negatively stereotyped domains” (Shapiro & Williams, 2011, p. 175). Even though neuroscience research shows that there are few differences between the structures and functions of the brain between girls and boys (UNESCO, 2017) these stereotype threatspersist in US schools (Gunderson et al., 2011). Gender stereotypes are so entrenched in society that this research does little to dispel the negative impacts of bias on girls’ interest in and pursuit of STEM-based fields (Archer et al., 2012; Ertl et al., 2017; Shapiro & Williams, 2011; UNESCO, 2017). As Shapiro and Williams (2011) state, “stereotypes can undermine women’s and girls’ performance and interest in STEM domains even when women and girls have positive math attitudes” (p.175). Developing a STEM identity, a form of social identity where one develops a sense of belonging and social acceptance as part of that community begins in adolescence (Kim et al., 2018; Martin-Hansen, 2018; Seyranian et al., 2018). Family, peers, and teachers can greatly impact a girl’s sense of STEM identity (Eccles et al., 1990; Gunderson et al., 2011).
An infographic on STEM programs designed for girls. Provides data and facts about girls' involvement in STEM programs
Figure 6.3 STEM Programs Designed for Girls

When determining best practices for STEM education, one could consider a female perspective when designing a curriculum. From a social justice perspective, one could look at the recognitive justice of female representation in STEM education and instruction (Lambert, 2018). Is there an equal representation of females in textbooks, curriculum, etc., to ensure that girls feel a sense of community in their learning?

Currently, STEM education as a silo approach is predominantly taught from a male perspective, which limits many girls’ capacity to develop a STEM identity (Archer et al., 2012; Calabrese Barton & Brickhouse, 2006; Haussler & Hoffmann, 2002). Education requires a shift in how STEM classes are taught at a K-12 level. A foundational approach could be beneficial to aiding girls in developing their STEM identity (Baker, 2012; Haussler & Hoffmann, 2002; UNESCO, 2017). Research has shown that girls have responded favourably to a curriculum that incorporates “. . . a strong conceptual framework, [and is] contextualized and relevant to real-world situations” (UNESCO, 2017, p.67). Additionally, a foundational approach to STEM creates an environment that could build girls’ interests, as the curricula can provide a “varied experience, which integrates social and scientific issues, provides opportunities for genuine inquiry, involves real-world experience, as well as opportunities for experimentation, practice, reflection and conceptualization” (UNESCO, 2017, p. 67).

Ethical Considerations of a STEM Identity for Girls in a Silo Approach

From a consequentialist ethical perspective (Farrow, 2016), STEM education thus far has been known to limit autonomy and independence of women. By focusing on a silo approach, teachers and policymakers propagate pre-existing gender stereotypes. These stereotypes may contribute to expanding the gender gap in STEM-based fields and careers. When pedagogy focuses on a foundational way of thinking, thus prioritizing inquiry and real-world problems, girls demonstrate greater interest in pursuing STEM fields. Gender bias and stereotyping have limited women’s self-identity and their pursuit of STEM-based fields. These biases, through teachers, parents, and society as a whole, inadvertently, and at times intentionally, impact girls from a young age.

From a virtues perspective (Farrow, 2016) a shift in educational standards is required in order to meet the needs of all learners. The bias towards males as scientists and mathematicians is antiquated, and research has shown that gender plays little role in the learning of individual subjects. These biases cause harm to girls developing a sense of identity in the STEM subjects. Every student has a right to learn and to gain education free from stereotypes and bias.

Viewing women’s roles in STEM from a deontological ethical perspective (Farrow, 2016), women and men are equal neurologically. Research has demonstrated that gender bias and stereotypes are not founded in science and fact, as the human brain is designed in much the same way regardless of male or female genetics (UNESCO, 2017). Eradicating these stereotypes can lead to an equality of learning and provide more freedom for women to focus on STEM subjects. Providing equity and promoting women’s pursuit of STEM-focused programs could expand the depth and breadth of innovation.


Gender bias and stereotypes have greatly affected female STEM identities. These biases have limited their pursuit of STEM fields/careers. Research has shown that these stereotypes are not grounded in fact, but rather on assumptions made of male and female capabilities and skillsets (UNESCO, 2017).

STEM education requires shifting teaching pedagogy from a curriculum focused on the individual subjects or disciplines to one that incorporates inquiry, real-world problems, and a contextualized approach.  Shifting the teaching of STEM can open up more opportunities for females to develop a stronger STEM identity. There is a need for recognitive justice in the STEM world. Women are woefully underrepresented in textbooks and learning materials. Through mentoring opportunities and more visibility of women in STEM, girls can begin to develop a better sense of their role and identity in the STEM subjects.


When considering a standardized approach for STEM education, it is vitally important to consider all of the stakeholders and their voices. When we teach STEM subjects as silos, many ethical issues arise that limit the efficacy of the learning, most notably for girls and minority groups.

When focusing on the T in STEM, students become trackable and reliant on technology for their learning. This tracking leads to an invasion of privacy and issues around consent. The reliance on technology for learning leads to more money being funnelled to tech giants, and further issues emerge regarding dependence on technology for achieving curricular outcomes.

The standardization of STEM into silos limits assessment and culturally responsive teaching. Any standardized assessment tool limits the diversity of thinking and culturally relevant curricula.

As there is a pronounced gap between women and men pursuing STEM careers, there is a limitation on diversity. Gender bias and stereotypes have negatively impacted female pursuit of STEM careers. It has led to a stereotype threat that propagates girls’ belief that they are just not as strong as boys in the STEM subjects.

STEM education is an important component of teaching practice.  The focus of STEM as a curricular component should not be up for debate, only how it is to be defined. How it is taught should be of the biggest concern to all stakeholders. Those who are impacted the most by this ambiguity should be the ones whose voices are considered in this definition. Ensuring a program that is rich in diversity and that focuses on a foundational way of thinking could pave the way for equity and a voice for all.

Note: Using Farrow’s (2016) framework, Appendix A summarizes key ethical considerations when determining best practices for the integration of STEM education in K-12 schools. The impact of a misguided definition for STEM has numerous repercussions as noted in the framework.


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Breiner, J. M., Harkness, S. S., Johnson, C. C., & Koehler, C. M. (2012). What is STEM? A discussion about conceptions of STEM in education and partnerships. School Science and Mathematics, 112(1), 3–11.

Brinkmann, M. (2018, January 4). Google accused of tracking Google Apps for education students.

Bryan, S. M. (2020, February 20). New Mexico sues Google over collection of children’s data. Yahoo News.

Bybee, R. W. (2013). The case for Stem education: Challenges and opportunities. NSTA Press.

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Charette, R. N. (2013). The STEM crisis is a myth. IEEE Spectrum, 50(9), 44–59.

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Choi, B. C. K. & Pak, A. W. P. (2006). Multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in health research, services, education and policy: 1. definitions, objectives, and evidence of effectiveness. Clinical and Investigative Medicine, 29(6), 351-64.

Davis, B., Francis, K., & Friesen, S. (2019). STEM education by design: Opening horizons of possibility. Taylor Francis Group.

Duignan, B., & Nolen, J. L. (2019, September 24). No child left behind. Britannica.

Eccles, J. S., Jacobs, J. E., & Harold, R. D. (1990). Gender role stereotypes, expectancy effects, and parents’ socialization of gender differences. Journal of Social Issues, 46(2), 183–201.

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Ertl, B., Luttenberger, S., & Paechter, M. (2017). The impact of gender stereotypes on the self-concept of female students in STEM subjects with an under-representation of females. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(703), 1–11.

Famularo, J., French, D., Noonan, J., Schneider, J., & Sienkiewicz, E. (2018). Beyond standardized tests: A new vision for assessing student learning and school quality. Centre for Collaborative Education.

Farrow, R. (2016). A framework for the ethics of open education. Open Praxis, 8(2), pp. 93-109.

Gunderson, E. A., Ramirez, G., Levine, S. C., & Beilock, S. L. (2012). The role of parents and teachers in the development of gender-related math attitudes. Sex Roles, 66(3–4), 153–166.

Honey, M. A., Pearson, G., & Schweingruber, H. (2014). STEM integration in K-12 education: Status, prospects, and an agenda for research. The National Academies Press.

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Jadav, D. (2018, May 3). The STEM crisis: What the growing skills gap means for the economy and where we go from here. The Hill.

Kim, A. Y., Sinatra, G. M., & Seyranian, V. (2018). Developing a STEM identity among young women: A social identity perspective. Review of Educational Research, 88(4), 589–625.

Lambert, S.R. (2018). Changing our (dis)course: A distinctive social justice aligned definition of open education. Journal of Learning for Development, 5(3). article/view/290/334

Lynch, M. (2016, May 2). What is culturally responsive pedagogy? The Edvocate.

MacLean, L. M. (2017). Cracking the code: How to get women and minorities into stem disciplines and why we must. Momentum Press.

Martin-Hansen, L. (2018). Examining ways to meaningfully support students in STEM. International Journal of STEM Education, 5(53), 1-6.

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Regan, P. & Jesse, J. (2019). Ethical challenges of edtech, big data and personalized learning: Twenty-first century student sorting and tracking. Ethics and Information Technology, 21(3), 167-179.

Seyranian, V., Madva, A., Duong, N., Abramzon, N., Tibbetts, Y., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2018). The longitudinal effects of STEM identity and gender on flourishing and achievement in college physics. International Journal of STEM Education, 5(1).

Shapiro, J. R. & Williams, A. M. (2012). The role of stereotype threats in undermining girls’ and women’s performance and interest in STEM fields. Sex Roles, 66, 175–183.

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Xu, Y. (2015). Focusing on women in STEM: A longitudinal examination of gender-based learning gap of college graduates. Journal of Higher Education, 86(4), 489–523.

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Appendix A

Table 6.1 Completed ethical framework for standardizing STEM education in K-12 based on Farrow’s (2016) Uncompleted Framework
Principle Duties & Responsibilities (deontological) Outcome (consequentialist) Personal Development (Virtue)
Full disclosure
  • Those who choose educational practice and policy are not always from the educational sector.
  • Teachers have little voice in determining policy and funding.
  • Big business and global positioning are large decision-makers in policy.
  • How would education be impacted if teachers had a decision-making voice?
  • Decision-makers are being swayed by big business and by educational ranking on the world stage
  • STEM is touted as the needed skill set for future jobs; without extensive STEM education are we letting our students down?
  • What pieces of STEM and the 3 R’s are needed to fulfill students’ needs? Can we meet their needs with one and not the other?
  • If teachers are not making decisions on trends, is the push for STEM biased from the start?
  • Is STEM education hurting our students and the economy in the long run?
  • Pros and Cons of STEM education.
  • Is STEM education truly the best direction for our students, or does it just make the majority of US students look better from a world perspective?
  • What are the teacher perspectives on STEM education?
Privacy, data security, & informed consent 
  • Money-making strategy employed by giant tech firms.
  • Providing free access to students and teachers gives tech companies an ability to track and mine information with and without the consent of minors.
  • The mining of student data invades their privacy and opens them up to risk.
  • The invasion of student privacy with and without parental consent by these companies far outweighs the financial gain.
  • The continually changing nature of technology and the sophistication of big data algorithms makes it difficult for parents and minors to truly know what they are agreeing to when they click “agree” below the terms of use.
  • With access to photos, emails, Google maps, etc. student anonymity is being lost.
  • It is an individual’s right to have privacy and autonomy, especially for those under the age of majority
  • Parents, schools, and government bodies are morally obligated to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
  • Potential conflicts of interest arise, as edtech companies are work with the schools/teachers, but at the same time work with districts, researchers and shareholders.
Avoiding harm & minimizing risk
  • Standardization of practice and assessment will allow the US to track students and educators, which will then help determine who is underperforming and what sanctions are needed to improve individual schools/districts.
  • These sanctions are intended to push educators to better prepare their students in the core subjects (science, math, and reading).
  • There has been no major improvement in science and math test scores in the US, even with massive federal funding over the past twenty years for STEM education.
  • Pushing STEM education as separate core subjects has not resulted in the improvement of test scores, and the US continues to rest solidly in the “middle of the pack.”
  • Standardization of STEM education is detrimental to the learning of our students.
  • When we narrow the definition of STEM to its component subjects, we do not allow students to tackle real-world problems from an interdisciplinary standpoint.
  • Students are relegated to a number on a paper, that does not take into consideration diversity, culture, nor gender.
  • Standardization of STEM and subsequent assessment has limited ability to bring in multiculturalism and divergent thinking.
Autonomy & independence
  • Minority groups and girls are being left behind when it comes to STEM education.
  • Shouldn’t the definition of STEM be inclusive?
  • It is our duty to ensure that we do not standardize STEM; otherwise, yet again, we take the diversity out of the programming.
  • Even with a push for STEM towards girls, there remain fewer woman and people of minorities entering STEM professions.
  • Is the push for STEM education still targeting white males?
  • Do cultural norms and gender bias deter girls from going into STEM classes/activities?
  • There persist a stereotype for girls and minority groups when it comes to the higher-level academics; societal norms do get in the way of choosing certain subjects.
  • Societal norms should not sway a person from following their interests or heart.
  • Why do gender and ethnicity bias play such a large role in education?
  • We owe it to our students to provide them with access to a variety of activities without fear of recrimination, teasing, and/or avoidance of diversity.


Media Attributions

  • Figure 1 Factors Impacting girls © Jennifer Ansorger is licensed under a CC BY (Attribution) license
  • Figure 6.2: STEM Programs Designed for Girls © Jennifer Ansorger is licensed under a CC BY (Attribution) license


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