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Bridging questions of 'who' and 'what' in science education research
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Education. (FUSE)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6201-9135
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Education. (FUSE)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3407-9007
2019 (English)Conference paper, Poster (with or without abstract) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The poster will report on the initial phases of a project that takes a novel approach to understanding processes of inclusion and exclusion within science, focussing on trajectories into higher physics education and students from under-represented groups. The project is situated in the intersection between the fields of science identities research (cf. Carlone & Johnson 2007) and didactics. The aim of the poster presentation is to examine how these fields can inform each other (in particular when approaching issues related to inequalities in higher education (e.g. gender, class)). In this presentation we review key works that develops the concepts science capital and didactic modelling, in that these concepts have the potential to become influential (according to the criteria by Davis (2008)). In spite of engaging with similar issues – e.g. student subjectification in educational practices – the conversation between the fields of science identities and didactics has been very limited. Yet, our literature review indicates that science identities research has the potential to contribute more nuanced understandings of how students are positioned in the teaching and learning of science to didactic models, while still attending to detailed student-content interactions. Drawing on this, we will discuss how a research design utilising life-history interviews and participatory research methods can take the affordances and constraints of the two fields into account.

Introduction

In the contemporary society, science and technology have high status and are seen as crucial both for the individual, in order to make informed decisions about complex socio-scientific issues, and for the society at large. Hence, the lingering uneven participation in the disciplines is both a question of national economic security and a social justice issue. As such, a nuanced understanding of processes of inclusion and exclusion in science education are vital. This poster presentation will introduce a project that takes a novel approach to understanding processes of inclusion and exclusion within science, by focusing on students from under-represented groups who do participate in higher science education (particularly physics). Given the lack of success of current initiatives for widening participation in science, it is clear that it is necessary to advance the knowledge into inclusion and exclusion in the disciplines. Despite being highly ranked on the Global Gender gap rankings by the World Economic Forum (4th in 2017), Sweden still has a highly uneven recruitment in terms of gender to higher education in the physical sciences. On a similar note, Swedish higher education is highly divided by social class, despite many structural obstacles (such as tuition fees) not being in place (Börjesson et al. 2016). Thus, trajectories to higher education physics in Sweden provides an interesting case for exploring more subtle mechanisms contributing to the uneven participation in the physical sciences.

Two strong contemporary trends in science educations research are science identities research and didactic modelling. The emerging field of science identities research (cf. Carlone & Johnson 2007; Holmegaard et al. 2014; Archer 2014) makes use of sociocultural theories of activity and identity to explore how various participants relate to science, and the consequences of this relationship for their choices, interests, aspirations, and participation. Didactics can be considered as the professional science of teachers and aims to support teachers’ choices of content and methods in their teaching practice (Wickman 2014). Hence, tools and theories from didactics in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (cf. Lundqvist et al. 2009) are central in order to make such practices, traditions and customs visible and in order to establish systematic grounds for teachers’ choices. In summary, science identities research and didactics in science are both in a sense concerned with inclusions and exclusions in science education. However, while the former field is mostly focused on questions of ‘who’, the latter is mostly focused on questions of ‘what’. The aim of the poster presentation is to examine how the fields of science identities research and didactics can inform each other, when approaching issues related to inclusion and exclusion in science teaching. In addition, we will discuss how a research design of a participatory research project can take the affordances and constraints of the two fields into account.

Method

Methodologically we take a qualitative, interpretative stance inspired by sociocultural theories of activity and identity, which posit that identity is co-produced with social, cultural and material activities (Holland et al. 1998) and is based in an intersectional, post-structural understanding of social categories (cf. Phoenix 2006). This poster presentation draws on an exploratory literature review, examining contemporary key works within the fields of science identities research and didactics in science, which can be understood as dealing with questions of inclusions and exclusions (either in relation to educational content and/or students as situated within societal power structures).

Here we will zoom in on studies concerning science capital and didactic modelling, as these theoretical concepts have the potential to become influential according to the criteria for successful theories within social science (fundamental concern; novel twist; appeal to generalists and specialists; ambiguity and incompleteness) discussed by Davis (2008). Science capital was first introduced in 2012 by Louise Archer and her team, and has since gained considerable attraction within science education (the most well-cited papers have been chosen for analysis), and is part of a wider science education tradition focused on identity constitution, which also will be considered in the analysis (cf. Carlone and Johnson 2007). Didactic modelling is a concept developed in a graduate school in science education, founded on a collaboration between two of the more influential education research environments in Scandinavia (cf. Wickman et al. 2018). This concept is developed within the tradition of pragmatist didactics, and to trace this concept well-cited papers within this tradition have been analysed (e.g. Wickman and Östman 2002; Lidar 2006). The analysis of the selected studies focuses on how these approach the questions of ‘what’ and ‘who in the teaching and learning of science.

In the second stage, we have developed a preliminary research design, that utilises the affordances of both fields in order to mitigate aspects that the fields may have overlooked. 

Results

Science identities research and didactics are both concerned with inclusions and exclusions in science education. However, the fields approach this issue from differing perspectives. An important conceptual device within science identities research is science capital, developed by Archer et al. (2015) drawing on the Bourdieusian concept of capital. Science capital collates a person’s science related economic, cultural and social resource. The concept of ‘science capital’ has been demonstrated to provide a more fine-grained analytic lens for predicting students’ science aspirations and identities than cultural capital (DeWitt et al 2016). However, in comparison to how didactics approaches science teaching and learning, the analyses are on a more over-arching level, often focusing cultural characteristics and science (such as how science is considered difficult and/or demanding a particular talent). Didactics of science, on the other hand, is concerned with the questions: ‘What content is to be taught?’, ‘How is the content going to be taught?’ and ‘Why teach this content and why in this way?’, thus allowing for a more detailed consideration of how students and teachers approach science as a field of knowledge. Here didactic models has gained quite a lot of attention lately. Didactic models are not to be considered as models for ‘best practice’, rather they are to be understood as situated conceptual frameworks (Wickman 2012). Our argument is science identities research has to potential to contribute more nuanced understandings of how students are positioned in the teaching and learning of science to didactic models, while still attending to detailed student-content interactions.

Conclusions and Discussion

Science identities research is just starting to influence science education practices (cf. Birmingham & Barton 2014) and despite engaging with similar issues to the field of didactics concerning student subjectification (cf. Biesta 2009), the conversation between the fields have been very limited. In addition, in longitudinal studies of science identity development (such as ASPIRES, cf. Archer & DeWitt 2017), tracing students from a young age, very few will end of choosing higher science education. As indicated by our literary review, there is potential in letting science identities studies more directly inform didactic modelling. However, we agree with Wickman (2012) that it is essential that the models, while attending to the specificities of a certain educational content are not so detailed that they oversee the contingent aspects of every teacher’s situation. We suggest that a possible research design that does this would entail: 1) a targeted approach that collect large scale qualitative data from students from under-represented groups, 2) that thick, in-depth empirical data concerning such ‘unlikely’ science students is collected (e.g. through life-history interviews), to serve as a starting-point for 3) researchers and experienced teachers to collaboratively construct didactic models.

Acknowledgement

This work is funded by a research grant from the Swedish Research Council (dnr. 2018:4985).

References

Archer, L., & DeWitt, J. (2017). Understanding young people’s science aspirations. London: Routledge.

Archer, L., Dawson, E., DeWitt, J., Seakins, A. & Wong, B. (2015). ‘‘Science capital’’: A conceptual, methodological, and empirical argument for extending Bourdieusian notions of capital beyond the arts. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 52(7), 922-948.

Biesta, G. (2009). Good education in an age of measurement: On the need to reconnect with the question of purpose in education. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 22(1), 33-46.

Birmingham, D. & Barton, A.C. (2014). Putting on a green carnival: Youth taking educated action on socioscientific issues. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51(3), 286-314.

Börjesson, M., Broady, D., Dalberg, T. & Lidegran, I. (2016). Elite education in Sweden: A contradiction in terms? In Maxwell & Aggleton (Ed.), Elite education: International perspectives on the education of elites and the shaping of education systems (pp. 92-103). London: Routledge,.

Carlone, H. and Johnson, A. (2007). Understanding the science experiences of successful women of color: Science identity as an analytic lens. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(8), 1187-1218.

Davis, K. (2008). Intersectionality as buzzword: A sociology of science perspective on what makes a feminist theory successful. Feminist Theory9(1), 67–85.

DeWitt, J., Archer, L. & Mau, A. (2016). Dimensions of science capital: exploring its potential for understanding students’ science participation. International Journal of Science Education, 38(16), 2431-2449.

Holland, D., Lachicotte, W.S., Skinner, D. & Cain, C. (1998). Figured worlds. Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Holmegaard, H.T., Ulriksen, L.M. & Madsen, L.M. (2014). The process of choosing what to study: A longitudinal study of upper secondary students' identity work when choosing higher education. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 58(1), 21-40.

Lundqvist, E., Almqvist, J. & Östman, L. (2009). Epistemological norms and companion meanings in science classroom communication. Science Education, 93, 859-874.

Phoenix, A. (2006). Interrogating intersectionality: Productive ways of theorising multiple positioning. Kvinder, Køn & Forskning, 2-3, 21-30.

Wickman, P.-O. (2012). Using pragmatism to develop didactics in Sweden. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, 15(3), 483-501.

Wickman, P.-O. (2014). Teaching learning progressions: An international perspective. In Lederman & Abell (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Science Education (2nd edition) (pp. 145-163). Routledge: New York.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
Keywords [en]
Physics; Gender issues; Qualitative methods
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Sociology of Education; Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-392089OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-392089DiVA, id: diva2:1346722
Conference
European Science Education Research Association 13th conference, Bologna, August 26-30, 2019.
Projects
FUSE
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2018-04985
Note

 

Available from: 2019-08-28 Created: 2019-08-28 Last updated: 2019-09-06Bibliographically approved

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