13 SES 13 A JS, New Materialism in STEM Education
Joint Symposium NW 13 and NW 27
This paper sets out and exemplifies a ‘new materialist’ position which theorizes the role of objects and the broader material world during collaborative classroom activities. Through focusing on practical work within school science lessons, we first present a critical literature review which highlights the deficiencies of constructivist and social constructivist accounts in relation to teaching and learning through interaction with material resources. We secondly draw on and extend the well-established literature on dialogic pedagogy to propose a material-dialogic pedagogy. Finally, we develop and exemplify this position in reference to an empirical study of how an experienced teacher promotes learning in a science classroom. Practical work is popular with students and teachers and seen by many as central to science education, but its role is increasingly challenged. Part of the problem is that the role of practical work in science education has not been adequately theorised. Constructivist and social constructivist accounts of science learning use practical contexts, but their primary focus is on the ‘concept’ and ‘conceptual change’ with the locus of learning being the individual. By contrast the theoretical basis of dialogic education is well advanced and focuses upon interactions as key to learning. Empirical evaluations have shown that dialogic education can be an effective way to teach science. However, current theories of dialogic education focus on verbal dialogue and fail to account for the role of interaction with physical objects and the material world. We use the critical literature review to explore the way in which practical work has been theorized and, building upon the gaps and possibilities that this review reveals, we outline a material-dialogic theory which we propose can offer the theoretical basis for a more effective practice. This theoretical framework draws together concepts of dialogic switching and dialogic space (Wegerif, 2011; Authors 2018) together with the material-discursive ‘Agential Realism’ of Karen Barad (Barad, 2007)to articulate a theoretical understanding of the potential ways in which the materiality of science practical activity can work together with dialogic education for teaching and learning through practical science, employing a notion of ‘diffractive switching’. We then draw on an example of teaching chromatography from a video-based study (Authors, in prep.) to demonstrate how the ‘material-dialogic’ pedagogy developed in this paper sheds new light on teaching and learning in practical subjects such as science.
BARAD, K. 2007. Meeting the Universe Half-way: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, Durham, Duke University Press. HARDMAN, M. A., RIORDAN, J. P., CUMBERS, D., HETHERINGTON, L. & WEGERIF, R. In prep. Exploring Material-dialogic Pedagogy in the Science Classroom. HETHERINGTON, L. & WEGERIF, R. 2018. Developing a material-dialogic approach to pedagogy to guide science teacher education. Journal of Education for Teaching, 44, 27-43. WEGERIF, R. 2011. Towards a dialogic theory of how children learn to think. Thinking Skills & Creativity, 6, 179-190.
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