Kindergarten girls "illuminating" their identities-in-practice through science instruction framed in explanation building: From the shadows into the light

Open Access
Author:
Mcdyre, Alicia Marie
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 05, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Carla Zembal Saul, Dissertation Advisor
  • Gregory John Kelly, Dissertation Advisor
  • Stephanie Cayot Serriere, Committee Member
  • Heather A Zimmerman, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • elementary science
  • science literacy
  • positioning
  • explanation building
Abstract:
Recent research on young children’s learning has revealed that they are capable of sophisticated scientific reasoning and has prompted a new era of reform framed around the integration of three main strands – core disciplinary ideas, scientific and engineering practices, and cross-cutting themes. Given the documented issues with girls in science in later grades, I chose to examine their participation in scientific norms and practices in kindergarten to gain insights into their identities-in-practice. From the perspective of identity as an enactment of self, I used the lens identities-in-practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991) to examine the impact that having classroom science instruction framed around constructing explanations with evidence would have on the girls in the class. In this study, I drew from theories of sociocultural learning, positioning, and identities-in-practice to study: a) the norms of participation, b) the authoring and positioning of girls, and c) the identities-in-practice that the girls’ enacted in the kindergarten science classroom. Using a research design informed by qualitative methods and participant observation, I analyzed data using a constant comparative approach and crafted case studies of four girls in the science classroom. Three assertions were generated from this study: a) Identity-in-practice manifests differently in different literacy practices and shows how students chose to be science students across time and activities- a focus on one literacy practice alone is insufficient to understand identity; b) The ways in which the teacher positions girls, especially “quiet” girls, is essential for engaging them in productive participation in science discourse and learning; and c) A focus on classroom science instruction grounded in constructing explanations from evidence provided a consistent framework for students’ writing and talking, which facilitated the establishment of expectations and norms of participation for all students. Implications from this study for elementary school science teachers, professional developers, and university researchers, and a direction for future research are provided after the analysis.