Get access

Young African American children's representations of self, science, and school: Making sense of difference§


  • This article was published online on 17 March 2011. Subsequently, it was determined that the title of the Seiler 2011 reference was incorrect, and the article was corrected on 31 May 2011.

  • A version of this paper was presented at the annual conference of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Philadelphia, PA, March 21–24, 2010.

  • §

    The data presented, statements made, and views expressed in this article are solely the responsibilities of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UIC's Great Cities Institute or the Polk Bros. Foundation


We focused on young, low-income, African American children in first- to third-grade classrooms where they experienced varied forms of interactive, participatory, and dialogic pedagogy in the context of yearlong, integrated science-literacy instruction. Using conversations that started around children's own science journals, which were an important part of teaching and learning science in their classrooms, we studied 25 children's ideological becoming relative to the practices of science and schooling and the interplay between their selves and others. We found that “doing school” was a dominant narrative intertwined with “doing science.” Following behavioral codes and constructing smartness as a large amount of knowledge seemed to be an important part of their school world, antithetical in some ways to the active, inquisitive, questioning, flexible view of science and science learning that their classroom instruction aimed for. Nevertheless, children had also constructed valuable scientific practices and sophisticated conceptions that involved science as capital (social, cultural, or affective) for scientists and/or for themselves as scientists. How children made sense of their experiences in and out of school and interpreted their teacher's and peers' words and actions, and how they saw themselves as competent, were echoed in the varied ideological becoming in their science worlds. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed95:824–851, 2011