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Sociocultural Perspectives in Science Education  

Sara Tolbert, Paulina Grino, and Tenzin Sonam

Since the late 20th century, scholarship in science education has made considerable shifts from cognitive psychology and individual constructivism toward sociocultural theories of science education as frameworks for science teaching and learning. By and large, this scholarship has attended to the ways in which both doing and learning science are embedded within sociocultural contexts, whereby learners are enculturated into scientific practices through classroom-based or scientific learning communities, such as through an apprenticeship model. Still, science education theories and practice do not systematically take into account the experiences, interests, and concerns of marginalized student groups within science and science education. Critical sociocultural perspectives in science education take up issues and questions of how science education can better serve the interests of marginalized groups, while simultaneously creating spaces for marginalized groups to transform the sciences, and science education. These shifts in science education scholarship have been accompanied by a similar shift in qualitative research methods. Research methods in science education are transitioning from a focus on positivistic content analysis of learners’ conceptions of core ideas in science, toward more robust qualitative methods—such as design experimentation, critical ethnography, and participatory research methods—that show how learners’ identities are constituted with the complex spaces of science classrooms, as well as within larger societal matrices of oppression. The focus of this article is to communicate these recent trends in sociocultural perspectives on science education theory, research, and practice.


Cognitive Regulation  

Dale H. Schunk and Maria K. DiBenedetto

Cognitive regulation refers to the self-directed regulation of cognitions (thoughts, beliefs, affects) toward the attainment of goals. Cognitive regulation can occur before individuals engage in tasks, while they are working on them, and during pauses or when tasks are completed where individuals reflect on their performances. Researchers have addressed which cognitive regulation processes are used during various phases of task engagement, how these processes differ among individuals due to ability and achievement levels and due to development, how cognitive regulation processes operate during task engagement, and which interventions can effectively help persons become better cognitive regulators. The implications of the research findings are that teachers and others can help learners improve their cognitive regulation skills. Some important processes are goal setting, strategy use and adaptation, monitoring of cognition and performance, motivation (e.g., self-efficacy), and self-evaluation. Effective interventions expose students to models displaying these skills and provide for practice with feedback. There are six limitations of the present research that should be addressed. This can be accomplished by conducting more intervention studies, examining fine-grained changes in cognitive regulation, conducting research in non-traditional contexts, integrating the educational and developmental literatures, exploring cognitive regulation across cultures, and investigating cognitive regulation during learning with technology.


Models of School-Family Relations  

Cristina Santamaría Graff and Brandon Sherman

For educators located in the Global North or South what it means to work with families in inclusive settings is often a reflection of fundamental conceptions of the very nature of schooling and learning. These conceptions, whether implicit or explicit theories, inform teacher practice, interaction, communication, and involvement when it comes to students’ parents, families, and communities. Understanding how theories of learning relate to family engagement and inclusive practices allows for (a) an accounting of established knowledge and practices and (b) more innovative future directions for engaging parents, families, and communities in schooling. Three specific theories of learning (behaviorist, sociocultural, and critical) demonstrate stark differences in how the roles of parents and family are understood in their children’s education. Each of these theoretical lenses produces different answers to the question of what it means to work with families. They entail different conceptualizations of parent/family engagement and inclusion, the challenges to this engagement and inclusion, and the tools used to address these challenges. Families can be positioned as passive recipients of knowledge, contributors to knowledge, or knowledge-makers. Regarding their child’s schooling, parents can be seen as supporters, contributors, or collaborators. They can be situated on the periphery of schooling or in the center. Contrasting and complementary elements of behavioral, sociocultural, and critical theories of learning provide insight into traditional, relational, and transformative approaches to working with families. These theoretical approaches entail practical implications as well, reflected in both standard educational practices and in extant findings in the field of educational research. This theoretical/practical approach allows for insight into why, in application, there is dissonance in perspectives among educators about how to work with families and what this work may entail and look like, and provides suggestions for how families and communities might come to play a more central role in the education of their children.


Identity and Agency in Informal Science Education Through the Lens of Equity and Social Justice  

Jrène Rahm

Learning and becoming are understood as emergent from participation in practices at the intersection of formal and informal science education. What learners value, engage in, and transform is understood as entangled with who they have been, think they are, and yet aim to become, calling for an intersectional lens to any analysis of learning and identity in science. Who one is and can become in science, given recognition by others as a science person, is political and a product of intersecting patterns of racism and sexism, to name two key dimensions, which are not additive but instead form a symbiotic relationship. Intersectionality foregrounds the structural, political, and representational of an oppressive system at work and is a lens essential to an equity- and social justice–driven conceptualization of science education at the intersection of formal and informal educational venues. Critical transdisciplinarity facilitates the unpacking of what science is and what kind of science a science person engages in, and it can move studies beyond paralyzing ideologies and meritocracies that undermine full participation in science by youth of color, for instance. Engagement with intersectionality, critical transdisciplinarity, and the political can make rightful presence a shared goal to work toward among science educators and researchers, a much-needed commitment in the informal science education field. Community-based educational spaces (CBES) challenge deficit discourses of youth and, instead, aim to build on youths’ funds of knowledge and identities through empowering practices. Identity work is approached through a grounding in practice theory, which calls for a focus on the figuring of worlds, lives, and identities. Becoming somebody in science is presented as a creative act by youth, who challenge what science is and who can become somebody in science. Actions by youth can make evident desirable identities that result in the “thickening” of their affinities with science, a process also charged by emotions. That is, intersectionality can be experienced as emotionally taxing, while agency and transformation by youth may result in positive emotions. A mobile view of learning and identity in science, captured by the notion of wayfinding, calls to attention hybridity, intersectionality, and critical transdisciplinarity. That grounding can move the study of learning and becoming in science beyond a binary vision of formal and informal science education while also making it political. A deeper commitment and engagement with social justice work in studies of learning and identity in CBES, a process well captured by the notion of rightful presence, could become a common goal to work toward in the vast field of science education, both formal and informal.


Simple and Complex Views of Teacher Development  

Jane Jones and Viv Ellis

Development is a keyword in the vocabulary of teacher education research. Keywords are high-frequency words and phrases that while bringing people together in conversation are nonetheless sites of significant contestation in the field. At its most basic level, in the phrase “teacher development,” development can refer either to the development of the teacher (personal-professional formation) or to the development of the practice (teaching). Adopting descriptive categories from literacy research to delineate “simple” and “complex” views on the underlying questions of development, it becomes clear that, within such a dichotomous construction, “simple” approaches are insufficient either to describe or to plan for becoming a teacher and experiencing growth in professional practice. Underpinning these “simple” and “complex” views in the research on teacher education, divergent perspectives on formation (e.g., the “natural born teacher” vs. becoming through struggling with an identity) and learning (e.g., high-intensity training in “moves” vs. complex trajectories of participation in social practices and the growth of critical reflexivity). Thus, in the research literature, it is possible to discern critical-humanistic and also techno-rationalist clusters of meaning: optimistic yet expansive understandings of learning and change alongside well-intentioned oversimplifications of inherently contingent and uncertain situations. Navigating these clusters is consequential for how the work of teaching and of educating teachers can be understood. Indeed, the vocabulary of teacher education research needs to be examined much more closely so that, by interrogating keywords such as development, new spaces for a more critical deliberation of becoming a teacher and for more transformative practices of both teaching and teacher education can be stimulated.


Sociocultural Perspectives on Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Assessment to Support Inclusive Education  

Missy Morton and Annie Guerin

Sociocultural perspectives on curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment support teachers in developing and implementing inclusive pedagogies. Sociocultural assessment approaches disregard impairment as an identity in itself, privileging the strengths and knowledge evident in observed interactions. A sociocultural approach to assessment recognizes the dynamic interaction between teaching, learning, and assessment, spread across people, places, and time. Where traditional forms of curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment focus on a decontextualized individual, a sociocultural perspective pays close attention to contexts. Teachers’ practices, expectations, and understandings of learning and diversity form a key part of the contexts. In culturally responsive paradigms, learning is recognized as sociocultural—being informed through interactions with others. All students are recognized and valued as people who gain experiences and knowledge across many contexts. Multiple perspectives are valued as shared understandings and constructions of learning are developed in response to observations and interactions in a community of learners—where students and teachers learn with and from each other. Teachers who recognize themselves as capable of teaching everyone in the class are more likely to recognize everyone as a learner, to think critically about their positioning and understanding of disability, and to plan teaching, learning, and assessment in inclusive ways of working.


Sociocultural Factors and the Global Goals of Education for All  

Eric A. Hurley

All over the world, nations have spent much of the last 20 years scrambling to increase and improve access to basic education. Globally, the number of people without access to a basic education has fallen significantly in the years since the goals of Education For All (EFA) were announced in 2000 at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, and extended at Incheon, South Korea, in 2016. This is ostensibly very good news. While universal access to a basic education is certainly a worthy goal, one can raise significant questions about the orientation of these efforts and the manner in which they are being pursued. For example, very little attention seems to have been paid to what the schools are or will be like, or to how the nations and people they must serve may be different from those for whom they were designed. To understand the inevitable problems that flow from this potential mismatch, it is useful to examine education in nations that have achieved more or less universal access to basic education. Many of the educational, social, economic, and social justice disparities that plague those nations are today understood as natural effects of the educational infrastructures in operation. Examination of recent empirical research and practice that attends to the importance of social and cultural factors in education may allow nations that are currently building or scaling up access to head off some predictable and difficult problems before they become endemic and calcified on a national scale. Nations who seize the opportunity to build asset-based and culturally responsive pedagogies into their educational systems early on may, in time, provide the rest of the world with much needed leadership on these issues.