Representations of scientists in Canadian high school and college textbooks



This study investigated the representations of a select group of scientists (n = 10) in a sample of Canadian high school and college textbooks. Drawing on semiotic and cultural-historical activity theoretical frameworks, we conducted two analyses. A coarse-grained, quantitative analysis of the prevalence and structure of these representations exhibited bias toward particular scientists' representations and particular types of texts and inscriptions therein, suggesting a domain-specific rhetorical structure. A fine-grained, qualitative analysis of scientists' representations revealed that high school and college textbooks represent: (a) objects of scientific practice as projected or anticipated independently from human activity; (b) scientists' individual actions aiming at the creation of non-tangible tools and rules by means of observation, modification, or manipulation of given, tangible objects; (c) scientific practice as isolated due to which the simultaneous belonging to different practices hardly determines the goals of scientists' actions; and (d) scientists as part of a small community of mainly other scientists who subsequently determine each other's individual actions. The implications of these outcomes were discussed. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 45: 1059–1082, 2008