Angela Calabrese Barton
Professor, Department of Teacher Education

Come visit my research lab website:

Invincibility Lab @ MSU:

My research addresses a core issue in science and engineering education: Achievement and interest gaps remain in the sciences and engineering for students from underrepresented backgrounds. For example, in the United States, African Americans make up only 5% of the engineering workforce, with a majority holding technician rather than leadership positions. This statistic has changed little in the past two decades despite reform efforts. My research connects this persistent large-scale problem with the experiences and opportunities of young people. In particular, I address two pressing challenges faced by youth from underrepresented backgrounds: 1) opportunities to learn science and engineering meaningfully, and to apply these understandings to solving real world problems (“learning”), and 2) the desire/ability to see oneself as an important, contributing producer and consumer of science and engineering (“identity”).

The goal of my scholarship is to help to break the cultural and institutional barriers to science and engineering success by building equitable and empowering learning environments in science and engineering. These environments must address both the learning problem—they must help young people master the knowledge and practices of science—and the identity problem—they must help young people to recognize that they belong in science and engineering. My research examines how and why youth engage in consequential learning in science and engineering with/through social action in everyday life, and how knowledge of these youth-led endeavors might inform new practices for in-school and after-school instructional settings. These settings allow people to a) be recognized as competent participants in valued and dynamic networks of practice, and b) develop the agency they need to accomplish goals that matter to them. This view of learning science and engineering pays particular attention to power dynamics, how actors are positioned (and by whom), and the cultural repertoires of practices that actors bring to the process.

I have approached this work from three related perspectives:
  • Multi-sited longitudinal ethnographic case studies of youth learning/engagement in science across settings
  • Youth participatory design-based research towards the design of learning environments
  • Teacher learning/teacher practice in support of consequential learning.

Current Projects Include

  • Tools for Teaching and Learning Engineering Practices: Pathways Towards Productive Identity Development in Engineering [I-Engineering]. National Science Foundation. DRL #1502755.
  • Making for Change: Becoming Community Engineering Experts through Makerspaces and Youth Ethnography, National Science Foundation. DRL #1421116.
  • The Makerspace Movement: Sites of Possibilities for Promoting Equitable Opportunities to Learn and Pursue STEM among Underrepresented Youth. William T. Grant Foundation Distinguished Fellows Program
  • Youth Access & Equity Research & Practice Agenda - Collaborative proposal to the National Science Foundation and the Wellcome Trust [UK].
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