Science as an enterprise has been and continues to be exclusionary, perpetuating inequities among whose voice is heard as well as what/whose knowledge is recognized as valid (Johnson, 2011). The National Science Foundation (2018) reports that women, minorities, and persons with disabilities are still vastly outnumbered in science and engineering by their White, male counterparts. These types of imbalances create a gatekeeping culture of inequity and inaccessibility, particularly for traditionally underrepresented students (Cheryan, Master, & Meltzoff, 2015). Science classrooms, especially at the undergraduate level, strive to mimic the broader practices of the scientific community and therefore have tremendous potential to perpetuate the exclusion of certain groups of people. They also have, however, the potential to be a catalyst for equitable participation in science. Utilizing pedagogies of empowerment (Hayden et al, 2011) such as culturally responsive science teaching (Ladson-Billings, 1994; Gay, 2010) in undergraduate classrooms can mitigate the gatekeeping phenomenon seen in science. Teaching assistants engage in more one-on-one time with students than most faculty in undergraduate biology education, yet minimal pedagogical training is offered to them (Tanner & Allen, 2006). Therefore, training for improved pedagogical knowledge is important for TAs, but training for culturally responsive science teaching is critical as TAs have broad and potentially lasting impact on students. This study explores the ways in which undergraduate biology teaching assistants enact culturally responsive science teaching as well as the factors they share that influence their decisions whether or not to enact culturally responsive science teaching (CRST). Using constructivist grounded theory methods (Charmaz, 2014) and a secondary critique from a postcolonial perspective (Bang, et al., 2012; Carter, 2006; Smith, 1999), this study examined teaching assistants’ reflections, observation field notes, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups to develop themes surrounding their enactment of culturally responsive science teaching as well as their reasons for enacting CRST. Findings from this study showed that undergraduate biology TAs enact CRST in ways described by four themes: Funds of Knowledge Connections, Differentiating Instruction, Intentional Scaffolding, and Reducing Student Anxiety. Additionally, findings supported the following as themes related to what factors influence TAs as they enact CRST: Affordances, Constraints, TA Beliefs, and TA Identity. Lastly, a postcolonial critique of the findings revealed that addressing issues of Settled assumptions and Bounded knowledge in science could lead to a decolonized approach to undergraduate science education and, specifically, CRST in undergraduate science spaces. These findings provide new insights into the ways undergraduate science education might be reimagined to create equitable science learning opportunities for all students.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2019. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Julie Brown. 1 computer file (PDF); 181 pages.
Advancing Equity through Culturally Responsive Undergraduate Science Education: A Grounded Theory and Postcolonial Perspective of Culturally Responsive Science Teaching.
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