skip to main content

Title: Youth-Community Invention: Community Epistemologies and Expansive Iterative Design
Objectives We examine the community epistemologies in youth’s iterative refinements of STEM-rich inventions across settings and time. Iteration in STEM-rich engineering/invention work refers to re-thinking ideas/designs within prototyping processes (Cunningham & Kelly, 2017). The objective of this paper is to examine the political dimensions of iteration through a) how iteration involves pre- and post-design “lives” of inventions especially towards new social futures, and b) the intentional incorporation of cultural epistemologies towards advancing new forms of legitimate inventor knowledge/practice (Yosso, 2005). Framing We draw from critical justice and consequential learning studies. Critical justice focuses on recognizing diversity and addressing structural inequalities perpetuated through systemic racism and classism. It seeks re-shifted relations of power and position within multiple scales-of-activity in learning, intersected with historicized injustices in learning environments. Consequential learning examines what matters to people, and how associated values and practices, when coordinated through social activity, allows for imagining new social futures (Gutierrez, 2012). Viewing the iterative process of inventing through a justice-oriented consequential lens calls into question traditional modes of knowing, and challenges/expands who and what areas of expertise are recognized and valued. Methods Our study takes place in two community makerspaces in mid-sized cities. Both center community engagement and support youth in designing/inventing to more » address problems they and their communities care about. Both also support minoritized youth in inventing through engagement with a wide range of community/STEM stakeholders. In researcher-educator roles, we collaborated with both makerspaces to establish programs supporting youth in sustained engagement in STEM and making/inventing in culturally-sustaining ways. In our two-year, longitudinal critical ethnography, data were generated in weekly community making sessions between 2016-2018. Data include artifacts, youth conversation groups, and videos capturing youth interaction with STEM and community experts at various stages in their design process. Analysis involved multiple stages and levels of coding based on open-coding and constant comparison procedures. Findings We ground our paper in four in-depth longitudinal cases of youth’s iterative design work: Nila’s light-up #stopracism sign; Su’zanne’s massaging slipper, Sharon’s geodesic play dome, and Jazmyn’s portable fan. Across cases, we illustrate three findings. First, youth located broader injustices within local making/inventing discourses with support from community and STEM allies, suggesting youth drew from multiple epistemologies, some grounded in community cultural wealth, others in STEM. For example, Su’Zanne drew from a familial culture of care and resistance in recognizing injustices nested in homelessness while iterating a way to make her slipper “more massaging.” The geodesic dome youth-makers drew from collective solidarity/resistance in making a structure for younger peers due to unjust lack of play infrastructure. Second, iterative engagement involving community wealth afforded further design and inventing experiences and expanded ownership over inventions across many stakeholders. For example, youth turned Nila’s #stopracism sign on during group discussions when they felt that racism needed to be foregrounded. Third, the afterlife of youth invention processes impacted the emergent inventor-maker culture through influencing the iterative process. Significance Iterations expand hybridization of cultural knowledge/practice and STEM-rich inventing, re-shaping whose cultural knowledge matters, and fostering justice-oriented collective outcomes. « less
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
American Education Research Association
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Drawing upon critical justice studies and critical ethnographies in two community- centered makerspaces, we build an argument for how designing for expanded iterations that repeatedly draw from community cultural wealth, supported youth-makers and communities in co-creating an expansive, locally-grounded maker culture. We conjecture that this community- anchored iterative making process is productive in historically underrepresented youth and communities establishing a more rightful presence in STEM-rich making. Two related-foci are unpacked: First, we examine how youth engage in an “expanded” iterative process across the making cycle – what this expanded iterative process is, and how it takes shape as youth movemore »from collaborative ideation through to the afterlife of a maker project. Second, by delving into “moments of expanded iterations” we examine how youth articulate ownership of their making: what that means, how and why, and the subsequent generative spaces that resulted.« less
  2. In June 2020, at the annual conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), which was held entirely online due to the impacts of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), engineering education researchers and social justice scholars diagnosed the spread of two diseases in the United States: COVID-19 and racism. During a virtual workshop (T614A) titled, “Using Power, Privilege, and Intersectionality as Lenses to Understand our Experiences and Begin to Disrupt and Dismantle Oppressive Structures Within Academia,” Drs. Nadia Kellam, Vanessa Svihla, Donna Riley, Alice Pawley, Kelly Cross, Susannah Davis, and Jay Pembridge presented what we might call a pathological analysis of institutionalizedmore »racism and various other “isms.” In order to address the intersecting impacts of this double pandemic, they prescribed counter practices and protocols of anti-racism, and strategies against other oppressive “isms” in academia. At the beginning of the virtual workshop, the presenters were pleasantly surprised to see that they had around a hundred attendees. Did the online format of the ASEE conference afford broader exposure of the workshop? Did recent uprising of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests across the country, and internationally, generate broader interest in their topic? Whatever the case, at a time when an in-person conference could not be convened without compromising public health safety, ASEE’s virtual conference platform, furnished by Pathable and supplemented by Zoom, made possible the broader social impacts of Dr. Svihla’s land acknowledgement of the unceded Indigenous lands from which she was presenting. Svihla attempted to go beyond a hollow gesture by including a hyperlink in her slides to a COVID-19 relief fund for the Navajo Nation, and encouraged attendees to make a donation as they copied and pasted the link in the Zoom Chat. Dr. Cross’s statement that you are either a racist or an anti-racist at this point also promised broader social impacts in the context of the virtual workshop. You could feel the intensity of the BLM social movements and the broader political climate in the tone of the presenters’ voices. The mobilizing masses on the streets resonated with a cutting-edge of social justice research and education at the ASEE virtual conference. COVID-19 has both exacerbated and made more obvious the unevenness and inequities in our educational practices, processes, and infrastructures. This paper is an extension of a broader collaborative research project that accounts for how an exceptional group of engineering educators have taken this opportunity to socially broaden their curricula to include not just public health matters, but also contemporary political and social movements. Engineering educators for change and advocates for social justice quickly recognized the affordances of diverse forms of digital technologies, and the possibilities of broadening their impact through educational practices and infrastructures of inclusion, openness, and accessibility. They are makers of what Gary Downy calls “scalable scholarship”—projects in support of marginalized epistemologies that can be scaled up from ideation to practice in ways that unsettle and displace the dominant epistemological paradigm of engineering education.[1] This paper is a work in progress. It marks the beginning of a much lengthier project that documents the key positionality of engineering educators for change, and how they are socially situated in places where they can connect social movements with industrial transitions, and participate in the production of “undone sciences” that address “a structured absence that emerges from relations of inequality.”[2] In this paper, we offer a brief glimpse into ethnographic data we collected virtually through interviews, participant observation, and digital archiving from March 2019 to August 2019, during the initial impacts of COVID-19 in the United States. The collaborative research that undergirds this paper is ongoing, and what is presented here is a rough and early articulation of ideas and research findings that have begun to emerge through our engagement with engineering educators for change. This paper begins by introducing an image concept that will guide our analysis of how, in this historical moment, forms of social and racial justice are finding their way into the practices of engineering educators through slight changes in pedagogical techniques in response the debilitating impacts of the pandemic. Conceptually, we are interested in how small and subtle changes in learning conditions can socially broaden the impact of engineering educators for change. After introducing the image concept that guides this work, we will briefly discuss methodology and offer background information about the project. Next, we discuss literature that revolves around the question, what is engineering education for? Finally, we introduce the notion of situating engineering education and give readers a brief glimpse into our ethnographic data. The conclusion will indicate future directions for writing, research, and intervention.« less
  3. This study examined associations between Black youth’s engagement with hip-hop culture and their sociopolitical development (SPD) (e.g., critical social analysis, critical agency, and anti-racist activism). Participants included 499 Black adolescents recruited from across the United States through an online survey panel. Findings from regression analysis revealed the differential effects of rap media (music and music videos) and hip-hop media (e.g., blogs, video shows, radio) on youth’s SPD. Black youth who consumed more hip-hop media and who interacted with artists on social media had more agency to address racism and reported engaging in more racial-justice activism. The frequency of youth’s rapmore »media usage was not consistently related to youth’s SPD. However, youth’s perceptions of rap (e.g., rap is empowering or misogynistic) were found to be directly associated with indicators of SPD. These findings provide insight into the potential influence of hip-hop culture beyond music on youth’s racial-justice beliefs and actions.« less
  4. Community and citizen science on climate change-influenced topics offers a way for participants to actively engage in understanding the changes and documenting the impacts. As in broader climate change education, a focus on the negative impacts can often leave participants feeling a sense of powerlessness. In large scale projects where participation is primarily limited to data collection, it is often difficult for volunteers to see how the data can inform decision making that can help create a positive future. In this paper, we propose and test a method of linking community and citizen science engagement to thinking about and planningmore »for the future through scenarios story development using the data collected by the volunteers. We used a youth focused wild berry monitoring program that spanned urban and rural Alaska to test this method across diverse age levels and learning settings. Using qualitative analysis of educator interviews and youth work samples, we found that using a scenario stories development mini-workshop allowed the youth to use their own data and the data from other sites to imagine the future and possible actions to sustain berry resources for their communities. This process allowed youth to exercise key cognitive skills for sustainability, including systems thinking, futures thinking, and strategic thinking. The analysis suggested that youth would benefit from further practicing the skill of envisioning oneself as an agent of change in the environment. Educators valued working with lead scientists on the project and the experience for youth to participate in the interdisciplinary program. They also identified the combination of the berry data collection, analysis and scenarios stories activities as a teaching practice that allowed the youth to situate their citizen science participation in a personal, local and cultural context. The majority of the youth groups pursued some level of stewardship action following the activity. The most common actions included collecting additional years of berry data, communicating results to a broader community, and joining other community and citizen science projects. A few groups actually pursued solutions illustrated in the scenario stories. The pairing of community and citizen science with scenario stories development provides a promising method to connect data to action for a sustainable and resilient future.« less
  5. This study investigates how educators, researchers and youth collaboratively sought to engage in a socio-spatial political project of disrupting and transforming normalized injustices against youth of Color in STEM in their local Science Center. Over the course of a year (and still on-going), educators, researchers and youth worked on a project they named, “Reclaiming the Science Center” because it focused on re-designing the text, images and experiences in differences spaces of the Science Center towards making visible and amplifying the lived lives and wisdom of people of Color and women. Drawing upon conceptual frameworks of social-spatial justice and social practicemore »theories, along with longitudinal critical ethnography, we report on the co-creation of spaces, both discursive and material, for critique and imagination of spatial representation. We also describe how educators centered youth-authored material artifacts toward expanding presence. Implications for working towards social-spatial justice in science centers are discussed.« less