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Success for all: Fostering early childhood STEM identity

Purpose – This paper discusses early childhood classrooms as powerful spaces for identity work and, more specifically, as a place (or not) for supporting early STEM identity development. It makes the case for educators and researchers alike to promote an expanded role of early childhood STEM education in the daily lives of young children. Design/methodology/approach – This paper uses a qualitative interpretive methodology, drawing from a wide array of research and theoretical literature from early childhood and STEM education and developmental psychology, as well as public policy. Findings – Today, both research and interventions aimed at fixing the "leaking STEM pipeline" and theory/ research on STEM identity development focus on children in middle school and above. Yet, children's attitudes about STEM and about themselves as STEM learners are formed early, and identity work is a task of early childhood. This suggests a need to focus on young children's engagement with STEM education as a means of nurturing their early STEM identity development. Originality/value – This paper synthesizes previous research to outline the need for expanding STEM education in early public schooling. It proposes a conceptualization of early STEM academic identity development (based on the premise that middle school is too late to fix the leaking STEM pipeline). (author abstract)
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