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Abstract

As science educators struggle to reform science education, we need a better understanding of the conundrums associated with the ways educators enact innovative science within and against the “academic,” “rigorous,” and “elite” sociohistorical constructions of science. I ethnographically investigated the meanings of an innovative, reform-based curriculum (Active Physics) in various micro (classroom) and macro (school and community) contexts. I conducted the study in a high school serving primarily upper middle class students, the majority of whom (97%) planned to attend college. I explored how meanings of the curriculum transformed as the curriculum traveled across space and time. While certain aspects of the context enabled innovative science (e.g., support from the administration, pressure to serve a wider range of students), other aspects of the context constrained the potential of the curriculum (e.g., the need to establish for students, parents, and administrators the legitimacy of Active Physics as “real” and “rigorous” physics). Using practice theory to understand the influence of context and agency in shaping school science practice, this study demonstrates the potential for viewing meanings of science in local settings as partially fluid entities, sometimes reproducing and sometimes contesting sociohistorical legacies. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed87:307–328, 2003; Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI 10.1002/sce.10071