Facilitating identity formation, group membership, and learning in science classrooms: What can be learned from out-of-field teaching in an urban school?

Authors

  • Stacy Olitsky

    Corresponding author
    1. Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, 3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
    • Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, 3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
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  • This paper was edited by former Editor Nancy W. Brickhouse

Abstract

This paper explores both the obstacles and the possibilities for students developing identities associated with science by engaging in solidarity-building classroom interactions. Data come from ethnographic research conducted in a diverse eighth-grade urban magnet school classroom in which the teacher taught out of field for part of the year. Contrary to expectations, more students participated and reported enjoying science when the teacher was out of field. Analysis of classroom interactions indicated that while in field, the teacher primarily engaged in “front stage” performances that hid her struggles with the material and accentuated students' views of science as an elite status group. The types of solidarity that developed among students often did not involve science language and sometimes involved students rejecting peers' claims to membership. However, when out of field, the teacher allowed students into her “backstage,” where her struggles and learning processes were more explicit. These practices lessened the social distance between teacher and students, and reduced the risks of using science language, thereby encouraging solidarity and group membership. This study provides insights into some of the ways that teachers, particularly those in urban settings characterized by diversity, might be more successful at facilitating identity formation and learning in science. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed91:201–221, 2007

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