A Deep Dive Into the unCommission Insights: A Focus on Belonging
April 12, 2022
After hearing from nearly 600 unCommission storytellers, we heard three things loud and clear:
- Young people have not given up; they’re fired up, want to make a difference with STEM;
- It is critically important for young people to feel a sense of belonging in STEM;
- Teachers are the most powerful force for fostering belonging in STEM.
Given the importance of belonging, we’ve spent the first few months of 2022 analyzing all ~600 stories to deepen our understanding of what belonging in STEM means, where it comes from (including how teachers influence it), and how it can impact young people.
These insights build upon our initial set of unCommission insights, developed from a sample of unCommission stories. The full insights report takes into account all ~600 stories and zeroes in on the prominent underlying theme of the need for belonging in STEM, revealing the patterns and tendencies that emerged from the stories.
WHAT IS BELONGING?
94% of storytellers discussed experiences of feeling belonging or non-belonging in their STEM learning journeys. For them, belonging manifested as:
- Feeling a personal connection with STEM content and experiences
- Feeling capable in STEM, especially given one’s race or gender
- Feeling excited by STEM subjects and content
- Experiencing success in STEM
- Seeing the purpose of STEM for oneself (e.g., how STEM could positively shape one’s future, the possibilities that STEM provides the storyteller for addressing societal or cultural problems)
WHERE DOES BELONGING COME FROM?
Several factors contribute to belonging, including teachers and other individuals, self-perception, STEM environments, and one’s race and gender. The stories revealed that teachers are a particularly powerful force for fostering belonging in STEM.
Teachers can notice, engage, and support in ways that almost no one else can, and so many of our storytellers pointed to a teacher as the factor that enabled their sense of belonging in STEM or led to their sense of not belonging. When teachers develop supportive relationships with students that go beyond instruction, students feel seen and heard, not just as learners, but as people. Additionally, when teachers show their passion or implement interactive structures in the STEM classroom, students get excited about STEM and are able to see their place in it.
WHY DOES BELONGING MATTER?
Belonging isn’t a nice-to-have. Our analysis of the stories revealed a positive correlation between feeling a sense of belonging and pursuing STEM. In fact, the stories revealed how an event associated with feelings of belonging could often outweigh or negate experiences of non belonging.
LOOKING AHEAD TO OUR NEXT DECADE
As a result of the stories we heard, 100Kin10 has proposed, over the next decade, to prepare 150K and retain 150K STEM teachers, especially for schools experiencing the greatest shortages, focus on preparing and retaining Black, Latinx, and Native American STEM teachers, and support our teachers to cultivate classrooms of belonging and schools to cultivate workplaces of belonging, with a focus on Black, Latinx, and Native American students and teachers.
The above piece by artist Play Steinberg depicts the centrality of teachers in the ecosystem of STEM belonging.