Navigating STEMification for critical geography educators: finding leverage in classroom and institutional pedagogies

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Department of Social Sciences


This paper grapples with the challenges posed to critical geography educators by STEMification, or the enshrinement of market-oriented forms of science and technology education as the normative ideal for education in general. In both reactionary and progressive contexts, STEMification decontextualizes scientific and technological activity and deepens existing hierarchies of knowledge based on quantification, perceived scientific rigour, commercialisation, and employability. Critical geographical knowledges often incur misrecognition, dismissal, and in some cases, outright prohibition under such conditions. Offering strategies for navigating and contesting STEMification, this paper draws on collective auto-methods, analysing narrative vignettes from our pedagogical practices as critical geography educators. We offer the notion of seeking leverage in the face of STEMification: protecting ourselves and seeking traction within our institutions by translating our goals into familiar or sanctioned forms, while using those forms to alternative ends. To that end, we highlight seven pedagogical strategies: (1) meeting students where they are, (2) using applied examples, (3) grappling with the limits of problem-based learning, (4) disalienating students from assessment, (5) integrating critique with alternatives, (6) anticipating both resistance to and desire for critical content from students and colleagues, and (7) recognising the limits of institutional environments.

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Journal of Geography in Higher Education