“Because I did what she told me to do.” Understanding the Identity Work of Elementary Students of Color in the Science Classroom and how a Teacher’s Positionality Impacts Student Learning
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Teaching and Leadership
elementary students of color, equity, identity, next generation science standards, science education, teacher education
This study examines how a classroom of elementary students of color constructed their science identities at a time in which the Next Generation Science Standards were taking root within their school’s science program. While the standards were developed under the paradigm of science being representative of a body of knowledge informed by student experiences, this study chronicles how elementary students reconciled their multiple identities (as a student, a person of color, and a scientist—their identity work) within the bounds of their classroom and community. In addition, the teacher’s positionality and the curriculum materials were studied to understand how they tended to students’ identities. Employing critical ethnographic methodology, this exploratory study centers the voices of 14 fifth graders to understand their utilization of the science curriculum as a means of narrating and practicing these multiple identities. Data collection consisted of individual student and teacher interviews, analysis of student work and teacher lesson plans, and video classroom observations. The findings suggest that these students of color espoused color-evasive racial identities early in their academic careers and associated their science identities with how well they could abide by school rules, which ultimately determined their access to science learning opportunities. Although the students were aware of their racial identities and the apparent lack of representation of these identities in STEM-related fields, they have not yet linked their racial identities to their academic or disciplinary identities (e.g. viewing oneself as a Black scientist), indicating a failure of the equity-driven standards to properly center students’ identities. The implications of this work bear significance for science teacher education programs, standards-aligned elementary science curriculum development, and the need for increased learning opportunities for pre-and in-service science teachers, as we strive to meet the instructional needs today’s diverse student body.
Burgess, Terrance, "“Because I did what she told me to do.” Understanding the Identity Work of Elementary Students of Color in the Science Classroom and how a Teacher’s Positionality Impacts Student Learning" (2020). Dissertations - ALL. 1148.