Date of Award

6-2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Science Education, Mallinson Institute

First Advisor

Dr. William Cobern

Second Advisor

Dr. Susan Stapleton

Third Advisor

Dr. Megan Grunert

Abstract

Scientific argumentation can be traced back to ancient times; yet has seen a recent upswing over the last decade in the area of science education. This is due to current national education standards that ascribe this practice as a way of promoting scientific literacy for all. Current literature reflects an evolution of scientific argumentation – accommodating emerging research that uses socio-scientific issues. National standards highlight the need to teach argumentation, yet also recognize the urgent demand for educational equity of all students.

The purpose of this research was to narrow the gap dividing argumentation studies from other science discourse research. It explored nine African-American female students in two regular and one advanced placement environmental science classrooms at a suburban high school (grades 11 to 12) located in Midwestern United States. The study relied on sociolinguistics as an approach to understanding the various characteristics of discipline-focused classroom discussion for these students, guided by a well-known argumentation model which included tenets from Black feminist epistemology and intersectionality theory.

Participants used strategies that resulted in incomplete to complete arguments, with overall limited reasoning in the construction of their arguments. Cognitive reasoning was prevalent, suggesting a possible disconnect between the environmental topics and their engagement to the curriculum despite the appropriate use of this argumentative element. Evidence of the caring trait permeated the construction of certain arguments. Participants used their lived experiences and reconciled their social identities with their classroom science identity in various ways and which stemmed from their social locations.

Exploring the lived experiences uncovered psycho-socio-cultural and pedagogical factors in the social context of the activities. Themes relating to the nature of science and the personal and general relevancy of the environmental science topics arose as important components of their classroom science identity.

This study offers a novel approach to understanding how Black girls may construct scieintific knowledge while constructing and evaluating arguments related to socio-scientific issues through their own lived experiences. Overall, culturally relevant approaches to teaching and researching marginalized students are crucial in order to ensure an inclusive science education in K-12 schools.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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