Justice-Centered STEM Education with Multilingual Learners: Conceptual Framework and Initial Inquiry into Pre-Service Teachers’ Sense-Making

Scott E. Grapin, Alison Haas, N’Dyah McCoy, Okhee Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When pressing societal challenges (e.g., COVID-19, access to clean water) are sidelined in science classrooms, science education fails to leverage the knowledge and experiences of minoritized students in school, thus reproducing injustices in society. Our conceptual framework for justice-centered STEM education engages all students in multiple STEM subjects, including data science and computer science, to explain and design solutions to pressing societal challenges and their disproportionate impact on minoritized groups. In the first part of this article, we extend our conceptual framework by articulating the affordances of justice-centered STEM education for one minoritized student group that has been traditionally denied meaningful STEM learning experiences: multilingual learners (MLs). Justice-centered STEM education with MLs leverages the assets that MLs bring to STEM learning, including their transnational knowledge and experiences as well as their rich repertoire of meaning-making resources, thus refuting deficit narratives of these students. To illustrate the affordances of justice-centered STEM education with MLs, we draw on examples from our instructional unit that engages students in the pressing societal challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the second part of the article, we report on an initial inquiry into how 14 undergraduate pre-service teachers made sense of our conceptual framework after participating in lessons from our COVID-19 instructional unit. Findings indicated that pre-service teachers perceived both opportunities and obstacles of justice-centered STEM education with MLs. We close by discussing what it might take to prepare the next generation of teachers to disrupt systemic injustices in and out of school.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)522-543
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Science Teacher Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2023


  • Computer science
  • data science
  • justice in STEM
  • multilingual learners
  • pre-service teacher preparation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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