E-Textiles as a medium to challenge students’ gender perceptions around STEM and Design subjects in the secondary education curriculum and their aspirations for future career choices

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Abstract

STEM subjects in the secondary school curriculum are largely the domain of boys, and the creative arts subjects are predominantly the territory of girls. This disparity permeates into higher education and leads to a gender imbalance in the workforce. This paper investigates issues of gender bias in the secondary school curriculum and explores student perceptions and self-efficacy for future academic success. Using the medium of electronic textiles (e-textiles) the research considers if multidisciplinary and co-design approaches to teaching could create a more gender-equitable environment, bring about a mindset shift in students’ gender perceptions, and alter their perspectives for future university choices. A mixed-gender group of 32 secondary school students from different subject disciplines across science, technology and art and design took part in a year-long study. They were given opportunities to work on a co-design project which sought to break down barriers between subject disciplines and challenge stereotypical perceptions of the ‘type’ and gender of student in each discipline. Students were introduced to an e-textiles project called ‘ElectroTex’ which sought to challenge the current hidden-gendered curriculum. It drew upon curriculum topics from physics, computing, technology and art and design. The research is underpinned by overlapping frameworks of Social Cognitive Theory and Value Expectancy Theory. A mixed methodology approach comprising Action Research and Co-design was sandwiched between pre- and post-project questionnaires which determined how students’ perceptions had altered as a result of the project. The experiential learning demonstrated that students were able to connect science with design and harness the value of their collaborative knowledge by applying it to real life situations. The outcomes show that a multidisciplinary approach to learning can re-frame students’ perspectives on gender in the curriculum, empower them to consider design and science in mutually beneficial contexts, and raise their aspirations for future success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Textile Design Research and Practice
Early online date19 Jun 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished online - 19 Jun 2023

Keywords

  • E-Textiles
  • gender bias
  • STEM education
  • Self efficacy
  • Value-Expectancy
  • Multidisciplinary

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