Marginalized discourses and pedagogies: Constructively confronting Science for All



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Marginalized discourses and pedagogies:

Constructively confronting Science for All
Angela Calabrese-Barton

Margery Osborne


This special issue of JRST is devoted to examining critical, feminist, and poststructural theories and the implications these have in considering the ideal, “a science education for all children.” These three perspectives are brought together in this issue because they combine a questioning of the foundational canons composing science as a discipline and science education as a practice with an understanding that the intersections of race, class and gender and other forms of identity labeling frame access to knowledge and power. Our desire to develop such a special issue stems from our own experiences in which we have been involved in researching science teaching and classrooms endeavoring to address the multiple needs of girls and minority students. We have found this work to be both complex and infused with problems and dilemmas which do not lend themselves to simplistic, prescriptive solutions. Indeed, the papers presented in this issue all highlight the complexities of teaching science in a diverse culture and how these complexities suggest re-thinking foundational assumptions about pedagogy and the discipline of science.

For example, all of the authors have attempted through their teaching and research to deconstruct the canon of science as well as critique who one must be to partake in that canon. All of the authors have attempted to situate and problematize knowledge construction about science and self within the everyday—a framework that is marked by discourses of domination, control, opposition, resistance, and power. They show us how the ways in which these discourses emerge from pedagogical encounters frame teachers, students, and classrooms. By arguing that teachers and students need to combine a critical understanding of science, including its content, culture, and discursive practices, with an understanding of students and educational processes, we can develop a deeper appreciation of how students and teachers must use these understandings as a basis from which to enrich the ideal of a “science for all.”

The studies presented in this issue draw from current debates concerning schooling and the need for liberatory education, the social construction of science and of identity, and systems of race, class, and gender oppression and domination. These works force us to confront such questions as:

• How can historically marginallized students become involved in science?

• How can we shape practice and curriculum to address the needs of diverse learners?

• How does reshaping practice and curriculum alter our thinking about the discipline of science itself?

All of the papers in this issue address these questions in ways that enrich our understanding of science education as a political endeavor. These studies also force us to rethink our conceptions of science education, social identity and the pivotal role of schooling in promoting or hindering a liberatory and democratic education through science. These challenges are also reflected in the writing styles of many of the authors in this issue. Rules of scientific writing, discourse practices, and assumptions about scientific knowledge and knowledge construction are challenged through the use of the narrative, poetry, the first person, columns, and personal context.

In an attempt to avoid the “textual politics of hierarchy” (Luke and Gore, 1992), we have chosen to present the papers in an order that we believe represents this kind of work in shared contexts. In addition we have invited leading writers in the larger fields of critical, feminist and post-structural educational theory to contribute provocative comments on each paper. It is our hope as editors of this special issue that this arrangement will allow people both familiar and unfamiliar with this discourse to engage it in interesting and critical ways. Our hope is to enlarge the conversation in science education in this manner.

The first two articles by Hildebrand and Norman provide overarching theoretical frameworks for critical, feminist and poststructural theory. The next three articles, by Calabrese-Barton, Roth and McGuinn, and Osborne, explore critical, feminist and poststructural theories within the context of teaching children both in and out of school. The final two articles, by Mayberry and Meyer, explore these same theoretical domains within teacher education. Each article, including this editorial is followed by a response. These responses are meant to draw out the major theoretical points in the papers, to provide further commentary, and to begin what we hope will be an on-going dialogue about marginalized discourses and pedagogies within the science education community.
Gaell Hildebrand provides a theoretical framework for understanding the ways a positivist view of science has led to the hegemonic discourse on writing and uses Foucault's notion of "power/knowledge" to highlight contradictions in writing and purpose. This critique leads her to develop the idea of “enabling pedagogy.” Enabling pedagogy draws on ideas of critical and feminist teaching and incorporates affective, creative, critical, cognitive, and diverse language practices set within sociocultural contexts. She uses this argument and her work with four teachers to advocate hybrid imaginative genres in secondary school science as a vehicle to disrupt hegemonic pedagogy. (Comments by Patti Lather follow.)

Obed Norman provides a theoretical framework for understanding how critical and feminist theories contribute to the larger question of how science gets defined and enacted in schools. By focusing on the marginalized discourses that have arisen to oppose the racism, sexism, and classism portrayed in mainstream science, he argues that an important component of scientific literacy is an understanding of the reciprocal impact of science and the general culture on each other. He uses this framework to show the reader the ways in which pedagogical questions are situated within the permeable boundaries between science and the general culture. (Comments by ???? follow

Angela Calabrese-Barton uses feminist and critical theories to explore the question of what it means to create a “science for all” from the vantage point of urban homeless children. Using the pedagogical questions of representation in science (what science is made to be) and identity in science (who we think we must be to engage in that science) and her teaching and research with urban homeless children in after school science settings, she questions how inclusive the science education community is in its efforts to understand the margins in constructing a science for all. (Comments by Magda Lewis follow.)

Wolf Michael Roth and Michelle K. McGinn bring us back to life in schools. They use poststructural theory to reveal the central role that inscriptions—things that “stand in, re-present, and speak for the “real” thing”—play in the construction of knowledge. In their analysis they indicate how one type of inscription, grades, and its associated practices are aspects of knowledge and power, in Foucault’s sense, that bring about and stabilize an educational actor network. In terms of re-framing a science for all, this argument is important because it provides us a way to understand how the efforts of critical and liberation pedagogies are undercut by the stability of existing networks and the grade-based technologies of differentiation they embody. (Comments by Michael Apple follow.)

Margery Osborne draws from her teaching-researching in elementary school science to argue from an understanding of current feminist philosophy that a teacher's practice reflects changing experiences, knowledge, values and identities and as such can be productively thought of as a site for learning as well as a site for expounding upon what is known. Using standpoint theory which takes everyday life as problematic, she challenges commonly held ideas about what constitutes teaching, learning, and effective practice in science class. (Comments by Elizabeth Ellsworth follow.)

Mayberry .... Maher ..... . (Comments by Friende Maher follow.)



Karen Meyer addresses the need for feminist perspectives in science teacher education. She interrogates “the phenomenon” and the implications of being female in school science through girls' and young women's stories interwoven with her own narrative as woman teacher/researcher in science education at the university level and in the preparation of teachers. She uses this interrogation to develop the need for an "engaged pedagogy" which emphasizes a commitment to self actualization and well being for both teacher and student. (Comments by Janice Koch follow.)

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