Figured Worlds of STEM For Saudi High School Girls: Exploring Identities in a School-Based STEM Course

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There is a growing effort from the Saudi Ministry of Education to include integrative science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the formal curriculum. As an initial step toward this goal, the Ministry launched a number of informal programs that deliver the integrative STEM education experience to students in their school and during their school hours. This study investigates how one of these programs has contributed to building a STEM identity for young female students in their last year of high school and how these identities have motivated or hindered their pursuit of STEM careers. Saudi literature on women in STEM education reflects their relative exclusion from some STEM fields. The importance of this research lies in demonstrating the importance of building STEM identities as a way to overcome the cultural challenges that hinder some Saudi women from choosing STEM fields, specifically engineering, as a career. The study took place in one high school in Riyadh city in Saudi Arabia; seven participants consented to participate. Using a case study methodology and employing identity in practice as a theoretical framework (D. Holland, Skinner, Lachicotte, & Cain, 1998), I was able to trace the students’ identity development over 11 months. Data were collected via several methods: one-time surveys, three observations, and three interviews. I collected the data over three episodes: at the beginning of the program, when the class moved to an online format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and after students started their post-secondary education pathways. Thematic analysis of the data demonstrated that formal schooling in Saudi Arabia has a deep impact on students’ understanding of themselves as STEM people. All participating students exhibited a “good STEM student” identity at the start of the program based on their experiences with formal STEM courses. Furthermore, they carried their STEM identities into the informal STEM classroom, and due to the different structure, they began to view their positionalities as STEM students differently and to adapt to the new structure of the informal STEM classroom.
STEM Education, Saudi STEM Education, Informal STEM Education, Figured worlds
Alamr, H. (2021). Figured worlds of STEM For Saudi high school girls: exploring identities in a school-based STEM course (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from