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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