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Beyond Inclusion: Interrogating the Transformational Potential of Informal STEM Learning

Gatz, Erin (2023) Beyond Inclusion: Interrogating the Transformational Potential of Informal STEM Learning. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Makerspaces and education networks are part of the same movement to increase cross-sector collaboration, expand informal STEM learning opportunities, provide professional development, and promote hands-on learning practices. Whereas makerspaces aim to shift power away from instructor-driven pedagogy toward user-centered learning, education networks coordinate learning opportunities and resources throughout a geographic region. In this dissertation, I examine how leaders of makerspaces and education networks grapple with the complexity of intersectionality in attempting to create opportunities for empowerment, skill development, and STEM equity with a particular focus on promoting feminism and anti-racism. In doing so, I examine the possibilities and limitations for how these entities may advance equity in education more broadly, which I understand as supporting culturally sustaining practices and redistributing resources in favor of learners of color, learners with disabilities, girls in STEM, rural learners, and learners in poverty. Chapter 1 explains my motivation for writing this dissertation and outlines the relationship between makerspaces and education networks. Chapter 2 provides an overview of literature on education networks and describes five mechanisms that networks use to achieve their goals. Chapter 3 focuses on a case study of one regional education network and discusses how participation has influenced the work of members. Chapter 4 examines how a feminist makerspace might be a model for more equitable STEM learning environments. Chapter 5 explores how an ecosystem approach supports informal STEM learning through interviews with feminist makerspace leaders from the United States and Canada. I conclude with the main takeaways from these studies as well as a reflection on what intersectional feminist networks might look like in practice.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gatz, Erineeo16@pitt.edueeo16
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairAkiva,
Committee MemberQuigley,
Committee MemberWeddle,
Committee MemberFox,
Date: 22 May 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 14 March 2023
Approval Date: 22 May 2023
Submission Date: 25 April 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 137
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Learning Sciences and Policy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: feminist; makerspace, anti-racist, racial justice, education network; learning ecosystem; informal learning; STEM
Date Deposited: 22 May 2023 12:49
Last Modified: 22 May 2023 12:49


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