UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Integrating literature into STEM to promote inclusivity and foster holistic, transdisciplinary learning environments Cunningham, Lindsay E.


The goal of this study is to examine the integration of literature, defined as any form of short or long fiction and/or non-fiction, or poetry, into secondary STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classes in British Columbia, Canada. The data were collected through interviews with nine secondary STEM subject teachers and focus on teachers’ perceptions of the effects of including literature, what/how literature has been included, and the perceived barriers to doing so. Interviews were conducted online via Zoom and coded using NVivo software. A review of the literature demonstrates that integrating literature into STEM can be appealing to a broad range of students and teachers and can help to engage students with a variety of interests, perspectives, and backgrounds. Literature can facilitate the inclusion of a variety of perspectives (i.e., Indigenous ways of knowing). The arts, including the literary arts, are a part of STEAM education, which focuses on interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary approaches to education. Furthermore, due to its multiple disciplinary nature, literature can present opportunities for students to learn holistically and help them to better understand the context of the content they are studying. Interview data suggest that literature can also help to make lessons memorable, build community within the classroom, and create opportunities for students and teachers to authentically represent themselves and the subject matter. Through exploration via a variety of educational approaches, students may be better able to find a pathway to engage with a subject. Participants in this study described several barriers they have faced in choosing to integrate literature in STEM classes, including time constraints, locating appropriate literary material, and managing the expectations of students, colleagues, administrators, and parents. However, the participants in this study all stated that they would continue to include literature in their classes in the future, despite the perceived barriers, and offered advice for teachers who may not yet have attempted to do so. The participants also found that student reactions to literature in STEM classes is generally positive, and they described some ways in which their assessment practices may change when integrating literature (i.e., marking holistically or using rubrics).

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