Journal of Research in Science Teaching

Cover image for Vol. 51 Issue 10

Edited By: Angela Calabrese Barton and Joseph Krajcik

Impact Factor: 3.02

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2013: 6/219 (Education & Educational Research)

Online ISSN: 1098-2736

Virtual Issue-November 2011

Multicultural Science Education, Equity, and Social Justice

November 2011
Mary M. Atwater

This virtual issue identifies nine science education research articles and conception articles published from 1990 to 2010 that focused on multicultural science education, equity, or social justice. These articles have been identified by a committee of 13 to have started a systematic movement, advanced a systematic movement, or broke new ground in science education research on multicultural science education, equity, or social justice. Cutting across these articles are critical questions regarding the design of learning environments, the role of cultural knowledge and experience in the classroom, and teacher knowledge and practice for equity. Together, they also represent an important epistemological shift in how questions of equity are addressed in science education research. Across these articles, in particular, we see the research movement towards treating equity as a more complex set of cultural practices and conditions to be understood, critiqued and acted with and upon. Equity related research ultimately has grown from 1980's equity studies focused primarily on "leveling the playing field" into a much more diverse spectrum of work covering multicultural and social justice issues. These manuscripts focus on culture, class, language, and geographic context to help researchers understand that science teaching and learning are riddled with challenges. We believe that these articles speak broadly to science education researchers and policy makers who wish to be informed on these issues, even as we welcome other voices in the international science education research community in future JRST publications.

VI cover

Editorial: Significant Science Education Research on Multicultural Science Education, Equity, and Social Justice

Mary M. Atwater

The purpose of this virtual issue of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching (JRST) is to identify science education conceptual and research articles published from 1980 to 2010 that focused on multicultural science education (MSE), equity (EQ), or social justice (SJ) that science education researchers and policy makers should ponder. These articles started a systematic movement, advanced a systematic movement, or broke new ground in science education research on MSE, EQ, or SJ. In response to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and 1970s, ethnic studies emerged as departments in higher education while in some institutions African American Studies, Latino Studies, and Native American Studies emerged as departments or institutes. In colleges and schools of education multicultural education (ME) emerged as a field of study. As ME began to mature as an academic discipline, theoretical perspectives such as critical theory, critical multiculturalism, and concepts such as EQ and SJ were incorporated. However, it took time for educational research disciplines to embrace ME. One of the first disciplines to embrace ME was social studies education; one of the last disciplines was science education. Eventually, conceptual papers and research studies began to be published in science education. However, in science education researchers used a variety of terms to denote the ideas found in the ME. Key words such as MSE, EQ, and SJ are used to describe conceptual papers and research studies in science education. Since a variety of terms are used to denote research related to culture, race, and ethnicity, it is important that science education researchers have the opportunity to know what publications in JRST are deemed those that broke new ground or started and advanced a systematic movement for studying cultural, EQ, and SJ issues in science education.
Read more

Social constructivism: Infusion into multicultural science research agenda

Mary M. Atwater

This article focuses on (a) theoretical underpinnings of social constructivism and multicultural education and (b) aspects of social constructivism that can provide frameworks for research in multicultural science education. According to the author, multicultural science education is “a field of inquiry with constructs, methodologies, and processes aimed at providing equitable opportunities for all students to learn quality science.” Multicultural science education research continues to be influenced by class, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, and different lifestyles; however, another appropriate epistemology for this area of research is social constructivism. The essence of social constructivism and its implications for multicultural science education research includes an understanding of whatever realities might be constructed by individuals from various cultural groups and how these realities can be reconstituted, if necessary, to include a scientific reality. Hence, multicultural science education should be a field of study in which many science education researchers are generating new knowledge. The author strives to persuade other researchers to expand their research and teaching efforts into multicultural science education, a blending of social constructivism with multicultural science education. This blending is illustrated in the final section of this article.
Read more

Strategies for counterresistance: Toward sociotransformative constructivism and learning to teach science for diversity and for understanding

Alberto J. Rodriguez

This article reports on two types of resistance by preservice science teachers: resistance to ideological change and resistance to pedagogical change. The former has to do with the feelings of disbelief, defensiveness, guilt, and shame that Anglo-European preservice teachers experience when they are asked to confront racism and other oppressive social norms in class discussions. Resistance to pedagogical change has to do with the roles that preservice teachers feel they need to play to manage conflicting messages about what they are expected to do from their cooperating teachers (cover the curriculum and maintain class control) and from their university supervisors (implement student-centered, constructivist class activities), and about what they desire to do as emerging teachers. Although these two forms of resistance are closely linked, in the literature they are extensively reported separately. This study suggests a sociotransformative constructivist orientation as a vehicle to link multicultural education and social constructivist theoretical frameworks. By using this orientation, specific pedagogical strategies for counterresistance were found effective in helping preservice teachers learn to teach for diversity and understanding. These strategies for counterresistance were primarily drawn from the qualitative analysis of a yearlong project with secondary science preservice teachers.
Read more

Cross-cultural science education: A cognitive explanation of cultural phenomena

Glen S. Aikenhead and Olugbemiro J. Jegede

Recent developments in concept learning and in science-for-all curricula have stimulated our interest in two fields of study: how students move between their everyday life-world and the world of school science, and how students deal with cognitive conflicts between those two worlds. In the first field of study, Aikenhead conceptualized the transition between a student's life-world and school science as a cultural border crossing. In the second field, Jegede explained cognitive conflicts arising from cultural differences between students' life-world and school science in terms of collateral learning. This article (a) synthesizes cultural border crossing with its cognitive explanation (collateral learning) and (b) demonstrates by its example the efficacy of reanalyzing interpretive data published in other articles. The synthesis provides new intellectual tools with which to understand science for all in 21st-century science classrooms in developing and industrialized countries.
Read more

The culture of power and science education: Learning from Miguel

Angela Calabrese Barton and Kimberley Yang

In this paper we begin a discussion around the need for science educators to understand the relationship between cultural and socioeconomic issues and the science education of inner-city students. We refer to the works of critical scholars in science, education, and sociology in order to help us deconstruct the relationship between sociopolitical agendas and the lack of opportunity in science education for students from lower socioeconomic inner-city enclaves. Through our ethnographic case study of a homeless family in a major metropolitan area in the Northeast, we frame our analysis through the pedagogical questions of representation of science through culture, socioeconomic status, and “culture capital.” We use this analysis to raise questions for further research on the significance of understanding, accessing, and critiquing the “culture of power” in science education.
Read more

Rethinking diversity in learning science: The logics of everyday sense-making

Beth Warren, Cynthia Ballenger, Mark Ogonowski, Ann S. Rosebery and Josiane Hudicourt-Barnes

There are many ways to understand the gap in science learning and achievement separating low-income, ethnic minority and linguistic minority children from more economically privileged students. In this article we offer our perspective. First, we discuss in broad strokes how the relationship between everyday and scientific knowledge and ways of knowing has been conceptualized in the field of science education research. We consider two dominant perspectives on this question, one which views the relationship as fundamentally discontinuous and the other which views it as fundamentally continuous. We locate our own work within the latter tradition and propose a framework for understanding the everyday sense-making practices of students from diverse communities as an intellectual resource in science learning and teaching. Two case studies follow in which we elaborate this point of view through analysis of Haitian American and Latino students' talk and activity as they work to understand metamorphosis and experimentation, respectively. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this new conceptualization for research on science learning and teaching.
Read more

"It isn't no slang that can be said about this stuff": Language, identity, and appropriate discourse

Bryan A. Brown

This investigation explores how underrepresented urban students made sense of their first experience with high school science. The study sought to identify how students' assimilation into the science classroom reflected their interpretation of science itself in relation to their academic identities. The primary objectives were to examine students' responses to the epistemic, behavioral, and discursive norms of the science classroom. At the completion of the academic year, 29 students were interviewed regarding their experiences in a ninth and tenth-grade life science course. The results indicate that students experienced relative ease in appropriating the epistemic and cultural behaviors of science, whereas they expressed a great deal of difficulty in appropriating the discursive practices of science. The implications of these findings reflect the broader need to place greater emphasis on the relationship between students' identity and their scientific literacy development.
Read more

Decolonizing methodologies and indigenous knowledge: The role of culture, place, and personal experience in professional development

Pauline W.U. Chinn

This study reports findings from a 10-day professional development institute on curricular trends involving 19 secondary mathematics and science teachers and administrators from Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, Philippines, the United States, and People's Republic of China. Participants explored the roles of culture, place, and personal experience in science education through writings and group discussions. Initially, Asian participants tended to view indigenous knowledge and practices more negatively than U.S. peers. After a presentation on indigenous Hawaiian practices related to place and sustainability, they evaluated indigenous practices more positively and critiqued the absence of locally relevant science and indigenous knowledge in their national curricula. They identified local issues of traffic, air, and water quality they would like to address, and developed lessons addressing prior knowledge, place, and to a lesser extent, culture. These findings suggested critical professional development employing decolonizing methodologies articulated by indigenous researchers Abbott and Smith has the potential to raise teachers' awareness of the connections among personal and place-based experiences, cultural practices and values, and teaching and learning. An implication was the development of a framework for professional development able to shift science instruction toward meaningful, culture, place, and problem-based learning relevant to environmental literacy and sustainability.
Read more

Test based accountability: Potential benefits and pitfalls of science assessment with student diversity

Randall D. Penfield and Okhee Lee

Recent test-based accountability policy in the U.S. has involved annually assessing all students in core subjects and holding schools accountable for adequate progress of all students by implementing sanctions when adequate progress is not met. Despite its potential benefits, basing educational policy on assessments developed for a student population of White, middle- and upper-class, and native speakers of English opens the door for numerous pitfalls when the assessments are applied to minority populations including students of color, low SES, and learning English as a new language. There exists a paradox; while minority students are a primary intended beneficiary of the test-based accountability policy, the assessments used in the policy have been shown to have many shortcomings when applied to these students. This article weighs the benefits and pitfalls that test-based accountability brings for minority students. Resolutions to the pitfalls are discussed, and areas for future research are recommended.
Read more