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Empowering Historically Underrepresented Youth in STEM: Integrating Environmental Justice and Data Science in Relevant and Agentic Lessons

Plank, Holly (2024) Empowering Historically Underrepresented Youth in STEM: Integrating Environmental Justice and Data Science in Relevant and Agentic Lessons. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The evolving landscape of global environmental crises juxtaposed with the persistence of gender and racial gaps in STEM highlights the imperative for a critical, intersectional environmental justice movement that can equip youth with the computational thinking skills and social justice dispositions needed to address our world’s most pressing problems. This need served as a catalyst for the development of a long-term, research-practice partnership (RPP) among a university, a computer science education organization, and urban, rural, and suburban school districts to iteratively address problems of practice related to the creation of a computer science educational pathway.

In response to findings from the RPP’s previous studies, the team designed and implemented a project integrating environmental justice and data science in relevant and agentic lessons. Across three articles, this dissertation seeks to understand the influence of the curricula on youth participants (n=731), the implementation of the curricula in twelve third through eighth-grade classrooms, and the needs of classroom teachers to successfully facilitate learning that creates conditions that can empower young people, especially those historically underrepresented in STEM.

Delving into mixed methods research, the first study examines the impact of teacher-designed curricula that seamlessly integrate environmental justice, computer science, and data science. This explanatory sequential design study’s findings demonstrate how these innovative STEM curricula can catalyze the development of youth occupational identity while creating conditions that can empower historically marginalized students to boldly reshape and reinvent occupational landscapes. The second article, a comparative case study within a more extensive mixed methods explanatory sequential design, exposed the relationship between student and teacher conceptualizations of environmental justice. The third conceptual article responds to an absence in the field and a growing need, illuminated in the first two studies, to develop the Critical Environmental Justice for Teaching and Learning (CEJ4T&L) framework. Ultimately, CEJ4T&L seeks to cultivate environmental literacy and create conditions that empower youth to resist and dismantle the environmental racism threatening our planet’s future through liberating pedagogies that cultivate transdisciplinary, critical problem-solving skills and a commitment to social justice.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Plank, Hollyholly.plank@pitt.eduhmp440000-0003-3178-6408
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairQuigley, Cassiecquigley@pitt.educquigley0000-0002-9502-3736
Committee MemberDias, Beabeadias@pitt.edubeadias0000-0002-4208-9918
Committee MemberVasudevan, Veenaveenav@pitt.eduveenav0000-0001-6666-4510
Committee MemberAndrews Brown,
Date: 16 May 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 1 April 2024
Approval Date: 16 May 2024
Submission Date: 22 April 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 273
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: Environmental Justice, Data Science, Teacher Education, STEM Education, computational thinking, computer science education, Research-Practice Partnership, transdisciplinary, Occupational Identity Development, Critical Environmental Justice, Integrated Curriculum
Date Deposited: 16 May 2024 17:11
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 17:15


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