Differences in African-American and European-American students' engagement with nanotechnology experiences: Perceptual position or assessment artifact?



This study examined middle and high school students' perceptions of a weeklong science experience with nanotechnology and atomic force microscopy. Through an examination of student self assessments and their writing, the study allowed us to examine some of the issues that may contribute to discrepancies that are seen between European-American and African-American students in science. The results of the study showed that after instruction, African-American students were significantly more likely to agree with the statement that “science involves mostly memorizing things and getting the right answer,” than European-American students. In addition, European-American students were significantly more likely to write their newspaper stories from a first person perspective than their African-American peers. The results are discussed in light of the assessment task, students' interpretations of formal writing, cultural differences in the use of language in writing, and possible cultural differences in students' perceptions of the science experience. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 44: 787–799, 2007