A major Western concern is that young people avoid science and technology programs. At various times, and in different countries, governments, funding agencies and businesses have made large investments in recruitment campaigns with the objective to increase students’ interest and attract new groups of students to these disciplines. In particular, girls and women have been the target group for many of these campaigns. The assumption is that if young people understood how exciting and interesting science is, they would choose these subjects. In other words, the problem is that young people "don’t understand what is best for their own good". In addition, research has shown that primary and pre-school student teachers often feel alienated by science education (Appleton & Kindt 2002) and that it may be difficult for these students to reconcile the role of teacher of young children with the role of science teacher in their identity formation (Danielsson & Warwick 2012).
However, feminist science educators suggest that students’ lack of interest is caused by character and image of the disciplines (Brickhouse 2001; Scantlebury 2012). Feminist philosophers’ of science have challenged the view of natural sciences as objective, and argue that knowledge production is human activities that are socially and culturally situated (Haraway 1988; Harding 1986). A noted problem with science is its elitist image. Science is portrayed as difficult and demanding, and as requiring a special talent from those who study or engage with the discipline. A feminist pedagogical stance is to visualize and discuss cultural, social, and historical dimensions of science. This has also proved advantageous for the acquiring of science content knowledge (Sible et al 2006). Therefore, we argue, that one important aspect of science teacher education is to problematize science (education), e.g. by including feminist critiques of science (Capobianco 2007; Mayberry 1998).
In this paper we explore the impact of a feminist teaching intervention within teacher education, focusing on the research question: What occurs when students are situated in the encounter between feminist critique of natural sciences and teacher education? What kind of obstacles can be identified and how will these effect pre-service teachers’ pedagogy of science?
The intervention, data collection and analysis
In an ongoing research and intervention project we are studying how an increased awareness of gender issues in science and in science teaching among student teachers influences their identities as teachers, and their teaching of science. We have followed a cohort of approximately 120 pre-service teachers (early years to lower secondary) from two universities in Sweden, through their first year of science courses. As an integral part of these science courses our intervention has introduced critical perspectives on gender and science as related to the culture of science and a feminist critique of the sciences. The project as a whole is framed theoretically by Hirdman's (1990) and Harding's (1986) theories of gender order in society, where gender is constituted on different levels: the structural, the symbolic and the individual (Harding 1986; Hirdman 1990; Rubin 1975). Hirdman (1990) describes this pattern from two perspectives: first, the separation of the two sexes and second, the superior status of the male standard. The formation of gender consolidates differences between the sexes and the female gender is always subordinate the male one, independent of status, class, time, and space.