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Keywords:

  • multicultural science;
  • urban education;
  • sociocultural issues;
  • middle school science;
  • naturalistic

Abstract

As other countries vigorously promote rapid advancement in science, optimizing the participation of all students in the United States in science is imperative. This study focused on African American students and examined their science achievement in relation to Black Cultural Ethos (BCE), a construct rooted in psychology. Via qualitative and quantitative data obtained from a non-random control group design, the study addressed three questions: (1) With respect to BCE, what characterizes the natural instructional contexts of two middle school science teachers? (2) What characterizes the achievement of African American students in contexts that incorporate BCE and contexts that do not? (3) What achievement patterns, if any, exist in BCE and non-BCE instructional contexts? With regard to the natural contexts, the teachers did not incorporate BCE even when the opportunities were available to do so. Within these non-BCE contexts, the group's mean scores on the study-specific test that aligned with instruction decreased from pretest to posttest with approximately one-third of the students' scores improving. When a context was altered with a moderate effect size of 0.47 to include BCE, the group's mean scores on the aforementioned test increased from pretest to posttest with two-thirds of the students' scores improving. An illustration of the interplay between BCE and context and a consideration of the interplay as a mediating factor in research involving African American students encapsulate the significance and implications of the study's findings. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 45: 665–683, 2008