Demographic changes within the US are bringing significant changes in the cultural make-up of the classrooms in our schools. Results from national and state assessments indicate a growing achievement gap between the science scores of white students and students from minority communities. This gap indicates a disconnect somewhere in the science classrooms. This study examines the teacher's perspective of the changing learning environment. The study focuses on senior teachers with traditional Midwestern backgrounds and little multicultural experience assuming these teachers had little or no education in multicultural education. Senior teachers are also more likely to have completed their science education within a traditional Universalist perspective of science and likewise have little or no education in multicultural science. The research method was comparative case studies of a purposeful sample of nine science teachers within a community experiencing significant demographic change, seven core senior teachers and two frame of reference teachers. The interviews examined the teachers' awareness of their own cultural beliefs and the impact of those beliefs on classroom practices, the teachers' understanding of cultural influences on the students' academic performance, and the relationships between the teachers' understanding of the cultural aspects of the nature of science and their classroom practices. Analysis of the interview data revealed that the teachers maintain a strong, traditional Midwestern worldview for classroom expectations and they are generally unaware of the impact of those standards on the classroom environment. The teachers were supportive of minority students within their classroom, changing several practices to accommodate student needs, but they were unaware of the broader cultural influences on student learning. The teachers had a poor understanding of the nature of science and none of them recognized a cultural element of NOS. They maintained a Universalist perspective of science with a strong commitment to the philosophy of scientism which left no room for a multicultural view of science. These results have implications for the broad science community with respect to the philosophy and nature of science. There are also implications in pre- and in-service teacher education and professional development aimed at raising cultural awareness of science teachers and providing a broader understanding of NOS. The problems raised by this research appear to be systemic requiring a commitment beyond the level of the individual teacher to implement a multicultural education that matches the composition of our classrooms.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2012. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisors: Fred Finley, Bashkar Upadhyay. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 219 p.
Senior science teachers' experience of teaching in a changing multicultural classroom: A case study.
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