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Empowering Teachers to Change: A Mixed Methods Examination of Equity-Oriented STEM Instruction


In this dissertation study, I employed mixed methods to examine the varied perspectives teachers have about equity-oriented STEM instruction and how their equitable teaching practices make certain academic and STEM identities available to their students. Both qualitative and quantitative data sources were collected from eight case study teachers and 24 focal high school students who participated in a summer residential college preparatory program for students from nondominant communities. Based on the eight case study teachers’ pre- and post-survey data, teaching philosophy statements, and other teacher materials (lesson plans, reflection responses, etc.), I highlight the two main perspectives on equity-oriented STEM instructions that teachers exhibited across the summer session: equity is equality and empowering students for success. The findings revealed how five teachers’ perspectives shifted over the summer from equity is equality to empowering students for success. Teacher learning was supported by the use of cultural artifacts and by the development of both collegial and teacher-student relationships.

This study also analyzed the equitable teaching practices of two focal teachers. Specifically, the equity-minded focal teachers: 1) utilized culturally relevant teaching practices; 2) developed relationships with students; and 3) emphasized diverse perspectives and participation in the STEM fields. Drawing upon the practice-linked identity framework (Nasir, 2012; Nasir & Cooks, 2009; Nasir & Hand, 2008) I examined qualitative and quantitative data sources to show how material, ideational, and relational resources available in the focal teachers’ classrooms supported students’ identity development. These teachers’ teaching and classroom environments made three identities available to focal students, including capable learners, potential change agents, and future STEM professionals. Statistical analyses (p < 0.05) of students’ pre- and post-surveys indicated that students made significant gains in their identity development.

Findings from this research can inform the design of professional development experiences to develop equity-minded teachers. These include supports for teacher learning, developing equitable teaching practices, and fostering equitable learning environments.

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