Meeting One: ‘Doing’ science versus ‘being’ a scientist

The paper we’ll be discussing this week is:

Archer, Louise et al. 2010. “‘Doing’ science versus ‘being’ a scientist: Examining 10/11-year-old schoolchildren’s constructions of science through the lens of identity”, Science Education 94(4): 617-639. doi: 10.1002/sce.20399. Download PDF (146kB)

Abstract The concern about students’ engagement with school science and the numbers pursuing the further study of science is an international phenomenon and a matter of considerable concern among policy makers. Research has demonstrated that the majority of young children have positive attitudes to science at age 10 but that this interest then declines sharply and by age 14, their attitude and interest in the study of science has been largely formed. This paper reports on data collected as part of a funded 5-year longitudinal study that seeks to determine how students’ interest in science and scientific careers evolves. As an initial part of the study, six focus group discussions were undertaken with schoolchildren, age 10–11, to explore their attitudes toward science and interest in science, the findings of which are presented here. The children’s responses are analyzed through the lens of identity, drawing on a theoretical framework that views identity as an embodied and a performed construction that is both produced by individuals and shaped by their specific structural locations. This work offers new insights into the manner in which students construct representations of science and scientists.

Discussion points:

  • Do the findings reported in the paper mirror your own experience – that gender differences account for the degree to which students engage with school science after primary school and that students can “enjoy” science without wanting to “become” scientists? Why?
  • Can you think of ways in which we can challenge the prejudices some children may have about a “science identity” being “undesirable” or even “unthinkable”?
  • The authors state that “in its present form, science appears to be constructed as ‘too feminized’ for (many) boys and ‘too masculine’ for (many) girls”. Would one way of dealing with this be to insist on teaching boy and girls separately?
  • To what extent do you agree that “as Osborne and Dillon (2008) have argued, what is required is a new vision of science education, not only of what we know and how we know, but also what kinds of careers science affords – both in science and from science – and why these careers are personally fulfilling, worthwhile, and rewarding.”?
  • What is responsible for the pupils’ (predominantly boys’) obsession with science as “dangerous”? Why is science “associated with explosions and bangs”? Does this – and should this – have any impact on your teaching?
  • How might the findings of this research influence your teaching?

We’ll be starting our discussion on Tuesday 5th July at 1930 using the @SciTeachJC account and the #SciTeachJC hashtag.

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