Translations of scientific practice to “students' images of science”

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Abstract

In the science education research literature, it often appears to be assumed that students “possess” more or less stable “images of science” that directly correspond to their experiences with scientific practice in science curricula. From cultural-historical and sociocultural perspectives, this assumption is problematic because scientific practices are collective human activities and are therefore neither identical with students' experiences nor with the accounts of these experiences that students make available to researchers. “Students' images of science” are therefore translated from (rather than directly correspond to) scientific practices. Drawing on data collected during and after preuniversity biology students' internships in a scientific laboratory, we exemplify the role of these translations in the production of “students' images of science.” A coarse-grained analysis based on existing research showed our data to be comparable with earlier studies on “students' images of science.” A fine-grained analysis shows how “students' images of science” were coproduced along a trajectory of translations that was determined by the use of particular actions and tools, and a particular division of labor in scientific practice. We propose to reconceptualize “students' images of science” as particular coproductions at a given point in time. The methodological and educational implications of this proposal are discussed. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed93:611–634, 2009

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