Education academics to help recognise how a 'STEM identity' is developed in children

The Assessment and Evaluation Research Centre (AERC) in partnership with DFAT, The New Colombo Plan (NCP), Mattel, and the University of Indonesia, had the honour of hosting the first Momentum Event for 2023; The power of STEM identity stories: bridging the gender gap between dreams and realities. The event facilitated rich discussions about girls’ identity, shared stories and explored the invaluable work being conducted as part of the ‘Dream Gap’ project.

Globally, decades of initiatives to get girls into STEM have not reduced the participation gap between girls and boys. As early as five years old, girls have been found to have gendered limitations on who and what they can be. Mattel’s ‘Dream Gap’ project aims to help close gender gaps in the aspirations of young girls and to provide tools that promote empowerment and gender parity.

The AERC including Dr Pam Robertson and her team, have been engaged by Mattel to develop a measurement tool for monitoring the development of STEM identity in children aged 4 – 6 years old.  The tool will define and conceptualise the stages of a positive STEM identity in the development of children aged 4 to 6. This will include specific attention paid to how this development interacts with and may be limited by perceptions of gender and cultural identity.

To test the feasibility of the measurement tool for use across different countries within the Asia-Pacific region, an Australian and an Indonesian version of the tool will be developed and piloted.  The pilot is expected to conclude in October 2023, with the expectation that in the future the tool will be able to be harmonised and used in different contexts. It will also allow experts to study cultural and gender influences in development of STEM identity, and track changes in STEM identity over time

The partnership between the AERC and Mattel will expand the existing research already conducted through the ‘Dream Gap’ project. The collaboration being grounded in Mattel’s desire to understand STEM thinking and engagement. Additionally, within the Asia Pacific context, the tool will explore the current gaps in the development of STEM identity and how these gaps could be addressed. This will support Mattel in shaping their initiatives and support children and families to recognise and guide the development of positive self-concept in STEM.

Both the AERC and Mattel hope to leverage the findings to develop a long-term road map to empower and raise aspirations of young girls.

Left to Right:  Debbie Krapywnyj (FoE), Dr Farhan Azim (FoE), Dr Cristina Guarrella (FoE), Prof Therese Hopfenbeck (FoE), Dr Pam Robertson (FoE), Ella Kuchel (NCP), Chloe Martinez (Mattel), Brian Borgonha (DFAT).

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Genevieve Siggins