IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Youth Equity + STEM

This project ran from 2017 to 2022 and addressed fundamental equity issues in informal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning.

A graphic representing the equity compass. STEM in large letters. People holding balloons and a sign which read: social justice, equity and black lives matter. Text at the bottom: Serves and belongs to the whole community.

UK Project Director: Professor Louise Archer

This project brought together researchers and practitioners to focus on the experiences, practices and tools that would support equitable youth pathways into STEM.

Youth Equity + STEM (YESTEM) was a five-year Science Learning+ Partnership project (2017-2022) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Wellcome, and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

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The major goal of this partnership is getting practitioners and researchers - through working with youth through design-based implementation research, survey and critical ethnography - to develop new understandings of how and under what conditions they participate in informal STEM learning (ISL) over time and across settings, and how they may connect these experiences towards pathways into STEM.

Research agenda

The YESTEM project responds to three challenges at the intersections of ISL research and practice in the United Kingdom and United States:

  1. lack of shared understanding of how youth from historically underrepresented backgrounds perceive and experience ISL opportunities across national contexts, and the practices and tools needed to support empowered movement through ISL
  2. limited shared understanding and evidence of core high-leverage practices that support such youth in progressing within and across ISL
  3. limited understanding of how ISL might be equitable and transformative for such youth seeking to develop their own pathways into and through STEM.

Working across conceptual frameworks and ISL settings (e.g. science centres, community groups, zoos) and universities in four urban contexts in two different nations, the partnership will produce a coherent knowledge base that strengthens and expands research and practice partnerships, builds capacity towards transformative research and development, and develops new models and tools in support of equitable pathways into STEM at a global level.


The project will result in

  • new understandings of ISL pathways that are equitable and transformative for youth from historically underrepresented backgrounds
  • a set of high leverage practices and tools that support equitable and transformative informal science learning pathways (and the agency youth need to make their way through them)
  • a strengthened and increased professional capacity to broaden participation among youth from historically underrepresented backgrounds in STEM through informal science learning.
UK team

Principal Investigator



Research-practice partnership

The project builds on a previous funded partnership and will be carried out by research and practice partnerships in four cities: London & Bristol, UK and Lansing, Michigan & Portland, Oregon, US, involving university researchers from University College London, University of Michigan, Oregon State University / Institute for Learning Innovation, and practitioners in informal STEM learning settings, such as science centres, zoo and community-based organisations.

University Partners

UK ISL Partners

US ISL Partners


Research papers linked to Youth Equity + STEM

Research briefs from an earlier planning phase, Youth Access & Equity in ISL: Developing a Research and Practice Agenda (2015-2016)

Resources and tools

YESTEM model

The Yestem model

The YESTEM model shows the interconnection between the “Reflect” (The Equity Compass), “Act” (a set of eight Core Equitable Practices) and the Outcomes components (including Youth Outcomes, Practitioner Outcomes, Programme and Institutional Outcomes and Broader Outcomes).

The Equity Compass

The Equity Compass helps users to adopt a social justice mindset when developing and reflecting on their policy and/or practice. It prompts users to consider multiple dimensions of equity, as represented by the eight dimensions.

The Equity Compass

The "Equity Compass” graphic shows eight dimensions of equity, grouped into four overarching areas. The eight dimensions of equity are written in the outer layer. The inner layer indicates inequitable or weak practice.

“Challenging the status quo” area includes three dimensions of equity: “prioritising minoritised communities” (with inner layer “prioritising the dominant”), “transforming power relations” (with inner layer “reproducing power”), and “redistributing resources” (with inner layer “reinforcing privilege”).

“Working with and valuing minoritised communities” area includes two dimensions of equity: “participatory working – with” (with inner layer “to”) and “asset-based approach” (with inner layer “deficit-based”).

“Embedding equity” area includes one dimension of equity: “equity is mainstreamed” (with inner layer “tokenistic”). “Extending Equity” area includes two dimensions of equity: “community/society orientation” (with inner layer “individual”) and “long term” (with inner layer “short term”).

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Our practice partners reflected on the four Equity Compass areas and how equitable practice has been developed within their settings - more films to follow.

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Core Equitable Practices

These are pedagogical practices that support youth’s learning and engagement in STEM in empowering ways. When educators engage in Core Equitable Practices, they take the stance that educators and youth are co-learners, co-disruptors and co-creators of a more just world with and in STEM.

YESTEM Core Equitable Practices

“The Core Equitable Practices” graphic shows eight practices: Authority sharing, Re-seeing and re-shaping, Shifting narratives, Reclaiming, Critically being with, Embracing humanity, Co-resigning and Recognising.

Equitable outcomes

Accessible and alternative language versions

•    The Equity Compass for informal STEM learning (accessible)
•    The Equity Compass for teachers (accessible) 
•    The Equity Compass for school leaders and governors (accessible) 
•    The Equity Compass for STEM Ambassadors (accessible)
•    The Equity Compass for funders (accessible) 
•    Equitable Youth Outcomes Model (accessible)
•    How to set up and run an equitable youth board (accessible) 

We have a number of resources translated into other languages. Please get if you’d like to discuss translating any of our other material.  
Email: ioe.stemparticipationsocialjustice@ucl.ac.uk

Events and training

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Blog: Youth Equity + STEM (YESTEM)

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