An analytic framework for understanding student thinking in STEM contexts
David Slavit 1 * , Kristin Lesseig 1, Amber Simpson 2
More Detail
1 Washington State University, Vancouver, United States
2 Binghamton University, United States
* Corresponding Author


The goal of this paper is to share an analytic framework for understanding Students’ Ways of Thinking (SWoT) in STEM-rich learning environments. Before revealing our refined coding framework, we detail the nature of our collaborations and the various analytic decisions that led to its formation. These collaborations supported our collective ability to make sense of SWoT and produce a more coherent perspective that can be operationalized in STEM contexts. Our analytic framework foregrounds student claim-making and the related evidence and reasoning used in support. Specific commentary about the development and application of each coding category is provided, including examples of student data and rationale for related coding decisions. Our analytic framework, and discussion of its formation, can help educators, curriculum makers, and policymakers make use of SWoT in the development of meaningful and effective STEM education.



  • Allen, P. J., Chang, R., Gorrall, B. K., Waggenspack, L., Fukuda, E., Little, T. D., & Noam, G. G. (2019). From quality to outcomes: a national study of afterschool STEM programming. International Journal of STEM Education, 6(1), 1-21.
  • Allen, P. J., Lewis-Warner, K., & Noam, G. G. (2020). Partnerships to transform STEM learning: A case study of a STEM learning ecosystem. Afterschool Matters, 31, 30-41.
  • Battista, M. T. (1990). Spatial visualization and gender differences in high school geometry. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 21(1), 47-60.
  • Breiner, J. M., Harkness, S. S., Johnson, C. C., & Koehler, C. M. (2012). What is STEM? A discussion about conceptions of STEM in education and partnerships. School Science and Mathematics, 112(1), 3-11.
  • Bruner, J. S. (1990). Acts of meaning. Harvard University Press.
  • Bybee, R. W. (2013). The case for STEM education: Challenges and opportunities. NSTA press.
  • Calabrese Barton, A., Kang, H., Tan, E., O’Neill, T. B., Bautista-Guerra, J., & Brecklin, C. (2013). Crafting a future in science: Tracing middle school girls’ identity work over time and space. American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), 37-75.
  • Clements, D. H., & Battista, M. T. (1992). Geometry and spatial reasoning. In D. Grouws (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning (pp. 420-464). MacMillan.
  • Cobb, P., Gresalfi, M., & Hodge, L. L. (2009). An interpretive scheme for analyzing the identities that students develop in mathematics classrooms. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 40(1), 40-68.
  • Crismond, D. P., & Adams, R. S. (2012). The informed design teaching & learning matrix. Journal of Engineering Education, 101(4), 738-797.
  • Erath, K., Ingram, J., Moschkovich, J., & Prediger, S. (2021). Designing and enacting instruction that enhances language for mathematics learning: A review of the state of development and research. ZDM–Mathematics Education, 53, 1-18.
  • Forman, E. A., Larreamendy-Joerns, J., Stein, M. K., & Brown, C. A. (1998). “You're going to want to find out which and prove it”: Collective argumentation in a mathematics classroom. Learning and Instruction, 8(6), 527-548.
  • Garibay, J. C. (2015). STEM students’ social agency and views on working for social change: Are STEM disciplines developing socially and civically responsible students?. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 52(5), 610-632.
  • Gray, R., & Kang, N. H. (2014). The structure of scientific arguments by secondary science teachers: Comparison of experimental and historical science topics. International Journal of Science Education, 36(1), 46-65.
  • Herschbach, D. R. (2011). The STEM initiative: Constraints and challenges. Journal of STEM Teacher Education, 48(1), 96-122.
  • Holmlund, T. H., Lesseig, K., & Slavit, D. (2018). Making sense of “STEM education” in K-12 contexts. International Journal of STEM Education, 5, 32.
  • Hsi, S., Linn, M. C., & Bell, J. E. (1997). The role of spatial reasoning in engineering and the design of spatial instruction. Journal of Engineering Education, 86(2), 151-158.
  • Kazemi, E., Ghousseini, H., Cordero-Siy, E., Prough, S., McVicar, E., & Resnick, A. F. (2021). Supporting teacher learning about argumentation through adaptive, school-based professional development. ZDM–Mathematics Education, 53(2), 435-448.
  • Kelley, T. R., & Knowles, J. G. (2016). A conceptual framework for integrated STEM education. International Journal of STEM education, 3(1), 1-11.
  • Krummheuer, G. (1995). The ethnography of argumentation. In P. Cobb & H. Bauersfeld (Eds.), The emergence of mathematical meaning: Interaction in classroom cultures (pp. 229–269). Erlbaum.
  • LaForce, M., Noble, E., King, H., Century, J., Blackwell, C., Holt, S., Ibrahim, A., & Loo, S. (2016). The eight essential elements of inclusive STEM high schools. International Journal of STEM Education, 3(1), 21.
  • Lee, H. S., Liu, O. L., Pallant, A., Roohr, K. C., Pryputniewicz, S., & Buck, Z. E. (2014). Assessment of uncertainty-infused scientific argumentation. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51(5), 581-605.
  • Lemke, J. L. (1990). Talking science: Language, learning, and values. Ablex Publishing Corporation.
  • Lesseig, K. (2016). Fostering teacher learning of conjecturing, generalizing and justifying through Mathematics Studio. Mathematics Teacher Education and Development, 18(1), 100-119.
  • Lesseig, K., Slavit, D., & Nelson, T. H. (2017). Jumping on the STEM bandwagon: How middle grades students and teachers can benefit from STEM experiences. Middle School Journal, 48(3), 15-24.
  • Li, Y., Schoenfeld, A. H., diSessa, A. A., Graesser, A. C., Benson, L. C., English, L. D., & Duschl, R. A. (2019). On computational thinking and STEM education. Journal for STEM Education Research, 2, 1–13.
  • Lynch, S. J., Burton, E. P., Behrend, T., House, A., Ford, M., Spillane, N., Matray, S., Han, E., & Means, B. (2018). Understanding inclusive STEM high schools as opportunity structures for underrepresented students: Critical components. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 55(5), 712-748.
  • Martín‐Páez, T., Aguilera, D., Perales‐Palacios, F. J., & Vílchez‐González, J. M. (2019). What are we talking about when we talk about STEM education? A review of literature. Science Education, 103(4), 799-822.
  • McComas, W. F., & Burgin, S. R. (2020). A critique of “STEM” education. Science & Education, 29(4), 805-829.
  • McNeill, K.L., and J. Krajcik. 2012. Supporting grade 5–8 students in constructing explanations in science: The claim, evidence, and reasoning framework for talk and writing. Allyn and Bacon.
  • Moon, J., & Singer, S. R. (2012). Bringing STEM into focus. Education Week, 31(19), 32.
  • Moore, T. J., Johnston, A. C., & Glancy, A. W. (2020). STEM integration: A synthesis of conceptual frameworks and definitions. In C. C. Johnson et al. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on STEM Education (pp. 3-16). Routledge.
  • National Governors Association (2010). Common core state standards for mathematics. Author.
  • National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) (2020). STEM education teaching and learning. NSTA Position Statement. Retrieved from
  • NGSS Lead States (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. The National Academies Press.
  • Okrent, A. & Burke, A. (2021). The STEM labor force of today: Scientists, engineers, and skilled technical workers. National Science Foundation.
  • Peters-Burton, E. E., Lynch, S. J., Behrend, T. S., & Means, B. B. (2014). Inclusive STEM high school design: 10 critical components. Theory Into Practice, 53(1), 64-71.
  • Pimm, D. (1987). Speaking mathematically: Communication in mathematics classrooms. Routledge.
  • Rasmussen, C., & Bisanz, J. (2005). Representation and working memory in early arithmetic. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 91(2), 137-157.
  • Reynante, B. M., Selbach-Allen, M. E., & Pimentel, D. R. (2020). Exploring the promises and perils of integrated STEM through disciplinary practices and epistemologies. Science & Education, 29(4), 785-803.
  • Roehrig, G.H., Moore, T.J., Wang, H.-H. G, & Park, M.S. G (2012). Is adding the E enough?: Investigating the impact of K-12 engineering standards on the implementation of STEM integration. School Science and Mathematics, 112, 31-44.
  • Simpson, A., Anderson, A., & Maltese, A. V. (2019). Caught on camera: Youth and educators’ noticing of and responding to failure within making contexts. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 28(5), 480-492.
  • Simpson, A., Burris. A., & Maltese, A. V. (2020). Youth’s engagement as scientists and engineers in an after-school tinkering program. Research in Science Education, 50(1), 1-22.
  • Simpson, A., Kim, J., & Yang, J. (2021). Caregiver-child interactions: Informal ways of doing mathematics during engineering tasks. In D. Olanoff, K. Johnson, & S. Spitzer (Eds.), Proceedings of the 43rd annual meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (pp. 807-811). PME-NA.
  • Siverling, E. A., Suazo‐Flores, E., Mathis, C. A., & Moore, T. J. (2019). Students' use of STEM content in design justifications during engineering design‐based STEM integration. School Science and Mathematics, 119(8), 457-474.
  • Slavit, D, Lesseig, K., & Grace, E. (2021). Student ways of thinking in STEM contexts: A focus on claim making and reasoning. School Science and Mathematics, 121(8), 466-480.
  • Slavit, D., Grace, L., & Lesseig, K. (2019). STEM ways of thinking. In S. Otten, A. G. Candela, Z. de Araujo, C. Haines, & C. Munter (Eds.), Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (pp. 793-801). PME.
  • Slavit, D., & deVincenzi, A. (2019). The use of standards-based grading in a STEM-focused learning context. Assessment Matters, 13, 113-156.
  • Slavit, D., Nelson, T. H., & Lesseig, K. (2016). The teachers’ role in developing, opening, and nurturing an inclusive STEM-focused school. International Journal of STEM Education, 3(1), 1-17.
  • Staples, M. & Lesseig, K. (2020). Advancing a teacher-centered perspective on support-for-claims terminology. For the Learning of Mathematics 40(1), 28-35.
  • Takeuchi, M. A., Sengupta, P., Shanahan, M. C., Adams, J. D., & Hachem, M. (2020). Transdisciplinarity in STEM education: A critical review. Studies in Science Education, 56(2), 213-253.
  • Toulmin, S. E. (1958). The uses of argument. Cambridge University Press.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.
  • Worsley, M., & Blikstein, P. (2016). Reasoning strategies in the context of engineering design with everyday materials. Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research, 6(2), 58-74.
  • Yackel, E., & Cobb, P. (1996). Sociomathematical norms, argumentation, and autonomy in mathematics. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 27(4), 458-477.
  • Zeidler, D. L. (2016). STEM education: A deficit framework for the twenty first century? A sociocultural socioscientific response. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 11, 11–26.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.