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Abstract

This case study explores how an American Indian woman experienced scientific discourse and the issues of language, power, and authority that occurred while she was an undergraduate student at a university in the southwestern United States. This ethnographic research, using a phenomenological perspective, describes her experiences as she searched for the discursive resources she required to cross-cultural borders between her traditional worldview and Eurocentric science. Data from interviews, participant observation, and artifacts offer a narrative of how she became aware of the “game rules” of scientific discourse. The findings are expressed in terms of a cartographic metaphor where the student's world became less of a list of categories and more of a map outlining where she ventured and the ways in which she oriented herself to scientific language. To facilitate the border crossing and reduce the obstacles that some students experience in crossing between worldviews, educators can look at cross-cultural perspectives and explore with students how language fosters or hinders their progress. This research suggests that we allow room in our pedagogy for students to learn the rules of using scientific language, make explicit the cultural norms associated with this practice, thereby promoting a “metaknowledge” of how scientific discourse functions in the academy. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed92:825–847, 2008