33 SES 11 A JS, Science Identities: Methodological considerations within an emerging field of research
Joint Symposium NW 33 and NW 27
To date, science identities have largely been studied through verbal and written articulations and performances (e.g., through interviews, discussion groups, questionnaires) and to a lesser extent through embodied performances. Very little work has explored non-bodily, material performances of science identities (e.g., Calabrese Barton et al., 2013). In this paper, we discuss findings from a study exploring youth engagement with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) within informal science learning environments using multimodal self-ethnographies. Drawing on theoretical frameworks of Butler (1993) and Barad (2007), we ask: what are the possibilities, affordances and limitations of studying young people’s identity performances (in relation to STEM) through material artefacts? Participants were five boys aged 11-13 who attended a youth tech club based at a community centre in an economically disadvantaged area of Bristol, UK. They were invited to be ‘co-researchers’ in the project. Over the course of five months, the participants took part in six 90-minutes face-to-face sessions, during which they constructed ‘portfolios’ of their experiences in STEM. The portfolios included a collection of drawings, written accounts (pen-and-paper and posts in a private online discussion forum), photos, videos, and material objects that participants brought to the sessions, documented and co-constructed to represent themselves and their involvement in STEM. In addition, the boys were observed during the tech club sessions, and interviewed individually and as a group. We argue that the inclusion of the material artefacts can valuably complement the more conventional methods of data collection to study identity performances. Including multiple forms of expression and self-representation was especially valuable for the particular group of boys who found it challenging and who were less comfortable to articulate themselves verbally. Material artefacts supported performances of youth interest and expertise, which was important for youth agency in the research context. We interpret the material artefacts as performances of identity which can be ‘read’ similarly to verbal or written representations. The material aspect involved in the production of artefacts was also valuable for considering the ‘STEM-ness’ of the boys’ identity performances. The artefacts themselves could be interpreted as performances of STEM knowledge, skills and competencies (in this case, technology-related), which added an additional, richer dimension to the understanding of STEM identities.
Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter: on the discursive limits of sex. London: Routledge. Calabrese Barton, A., Kang, H., Tan, E., O’Neill, T. B., Bautista-Guerra, J., Brecklin, C. (2013). Crafting a future in science tracing middle school girls’ identity work over time and space. American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), 37-75.
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