Institute of Education


Youth Equity + STEM

An international collaboration to enhance learning for all youth.

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

Youth Equity + STEM is a four-year Science Learning+ Partnership project (2017-2021) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Wellcome, and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

YESTEM addresses fundamental equity issues in informal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning. 

Access to, and opportunities within, Informal STEM Learning (ISL) remain limited for youth from historically under-represented backgrounds in both the United Kingdom and the United States. This project brings together researchers and practitioners to focus on the experiences, practices and tools that will support equitable youth pathways into STEM.


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 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




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, Michigan State University, 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

The Equity Compass

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/8j4daJ4b

YESTEM Insights

Research and practice tools for guiding equitable and transformative pedagogies in Informal Science Learning.

Insight #1

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 segments of the compass. 

More YESTEM Insights to follow. To keep up-to-date with more resources from our project, please join our mailing list.

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