13 SES 13 A JS, New Materialism in STEM Education
Joint Symposium NW 13 and NW 27
This symposium will explore the impact of new materialist perspectives on the teaching and learning of STEM subjects, arguing that for too long, little attention has been paid to the role of the materials, artefacts and material environment in pupils’ learning in STEM (Milne & Scantlebury, in Press). A great deal of previous research has focused on the impact of classroom dialogue and argumentation on science learning, with the material of the science classroom taking a supporting role. The papers in this symposium draw on materialist theoretical perspectives to demonstrate the active role of the material in STEM learning. These papers draw particularly on the work of Karen Barad (2007), whose relational, performative theory of ‘Agential Realism’, is rooted in insights from quantum physics. This has real purchase for exploring a range of issues in STEM education, alongside materialist theoretical perspectives drawn from Ingold (2011), Latour (2005) and Stengers (2000). This demonstrates the rich and thus far under-utilised theoretical strands of thinking through a materialist lens in STEM education. The papers draw on research contexts internationally, reporting on studies conducted in Europe, New Zealand and the United States.
- Making the Case for a Material-Dialogic Pedagogy for Practical Science.
This paper firstly demonstrates the lack of research into the relationship between material and dialogue in learning through practical science. It then outlines, and diffracts ‘together/apart’ (Barad, 2014) the relational onto-epistemologies of Bakhtinian dialogic theory (Wegerif, 2011) and Agential Realism (Barad, 2007) to produce a framework for a ‘material-dialogic pedagogy’ for science education. Secondly, this is applied to a video-based classroom study of chromatography, to begin to explore its implications.
- Entangling Matter and Gender in the Teaching and Learning of Chemistry.
This paper discusses how chemistry education research may have a unique position in the discussion about new materialisms in science education, through an examination of how humans engage with matter at different levels of representation in chemistry (that is, macro, micro and symbolic) and gender (structural, symbolic, and individual). Different ‘agential cuts’ (Barad, 2007) will examine these entanglements between non-human and human and result in unique material-discursive practices.
- Lifeworld Story of Rocks in a New Zealand Primary Science Classroom.
Based on Ingold (2011) and Roehl (2012) this paper considers how objects that are created and/or brought into the classroom are in states of flux, because their material attributes are processual and relational. This implies that materials are activated through our engagement with them. This argument highlights the significance of foregrounding seemingly mundane objects, presented through the lifeworld story of a rock as part of a science lesson in a New Zealand primary school.
- Weird Geometries: Cultivating Spatial Imagination through Speculative Fiction.
Science fiction often focuses on the limits of science and technology, and on the spatio-temporal configurations of being and worlding. This often entails descriptions of alternative ‘weird’ geometries that invite thinking creatively about alternative mathematical ontologies. This paper explores how such literature can enhance students’ mathematical imagination, and the implications for using these materials in middle school classrooms for broader participation in STEM. We follow Stengers (2000) and Latour (2005), arguing that speculation is a crucial part of inventive STEM practice.
In presenting this range of papers with the unifying theme of new materialism, we aim to demonstrate the rich and diverse potential of this strand of theory for research and practice in STEM education. The papers use a range of innovative methods in line with their theoretical stance (Barad, 2011; Trueman, 2016), thus the symposium highlights the exciting potential of new materialist research in STEM education.
Barad, Karen. (2007). Meeting the Universe Half-way: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press. Barad, Karen. (2014). Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together-Apart. parallax, 20(3), 168-187. doi: 10.1080/13534645.2014.927623 Ingold, Tim. (2011). Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. London: Routledge. Latour, Bruno. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Milne, Catherine, & Scantlebury, Katherine (Eds.). (in Press). Material practice and materiality: Too long ignored in science education. New York: Springer. Roehl, Tobias. (2012). From witnessing to recording – material objects and the epistemic configuration of science classes. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 20(1), 49-70. doi: 10.1080/14681366.2012.649415 Stengers, Isabelle. (2000). The Invention of Modern Science: University of Minnesota Press. Wegerif, Rupert. (2011). Towards a dialogic theory of how children learn to think. Thinking Skills & Creativity, 6(3), 179-190. doi: 10.1016/j.tsc.2011.08.002
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