Exploring STEM learning in primary classrooms: In support of social justice agendas

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Education in the 21st Century STEM, Creativity and Critical Thinking




School of Education




Cowie B., Mildenhall P. (2021) Exploring STEM Learning in Primary Classrooms: In Support of Social Justice Agendas. In: Berry A., Buntting C., Corrigan D., Gunstone R., Jones A. (eds) Education in the 21st Century. Springer, Cham.



This chapter explores how STEM education might be implemented with a social justice orientation in primary classrooms. The chapter initially explores how knowledge, empathy and action play a role in social justice-oriented STEM education that can support student capacity and inclination to take action for wider societal ‘good’. As illustrated within the first of three vignettes from primary school classrooms in the chapter, knowledge is necessary but not sufficient; there is value in developing and exercising empathy and critical and creative thinking so that students are willing and able to take constructive action. Next, the chapter provides a vignette of how teachers can work to address the issue of equity of access, participation and achievement in STEM whilst also engaging with the community. Finally, the chapter moves beyond a focus on students’ learning about a particular issue to considering how students might become change agents who are sources of authoritative knowledge relevant to their community. Overall, this chapter illuminates some of the challenges and opportunities of STEM education for primary school teachers and students when the focus is on how it can support a social justice agenda of equity of access and contribution to the common good.



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Research Themes

Society and Culture

Priority Areas

Diverse, equitable, informed and productive communities, schools and workplaces