03 SES 17, Uncertainty as a Constitutive Element of Pedagogical Interaction
In 2016, nearly half the U.S. student population, in public K-12 schools, was made up of students of color (NCES, 2017). About half of this ethnically/racially diverse population identified as being Hispanic while the Black population was about 14 percent. There exists an achievement gap based on race/ethnicity on science test scores. For example, in 2015, the average science scores were 160 for White students, 136 for Hispanic students, and 125 for Black students (NCES, 2017). In secondary-science classrooms, students from ethnically/racially diverse backgrounds are likely to experience uncertainty. This is partly due to students’ nondominant backgrounds which creates a likelihood that students will need to negotiate discontinuities between home and school (Lewis, Enciso, & Moje, 2007). To decrease these discontinuities, students whose beliefs may not align with Western science concepts, should be taught by bridging their cultural understanding with the content of the class (Lee, 2005). For example, in traditional U.S. educational settings, students in a chemistry class may begin learning about solutions by first discussing a mixture such as trail mix (a mixture made of M&Ms, pretzels, Chex Cereal, and peanuts). This choice would, of course, favor students who were familiar with having trail mix for snack. If, during this lesson, a racially- or ethnically- diverse student called out, “Salt and vinegar and pepper and cucumbers…Mmmm.” The teacher could bridge the student’s culture by not dismissing but including this suggestion. In fact, it would make for a more interesting discussion because of what happens to this mixture when it is kept in the refrigerator for a few days (Edmonds, 2016). Creating a space in which students draw on knowledge gained from their home or community is the basis of sociocultural learning theory (Vygotsky, 1978). Teachers can enable students to navigate the uncertainty that comes from having to negotiate two separate cultures between students’ home and school domains through using a Funds of Knowledge approach. This approach, which is rooted in sociocultural learning theory, is founded on the belief that every household is an educational setting which transmits knowledge that enhances the survival of its dependents (Moll & Greenberg, 1990). In my contribution, I will discuss an example of uncertainty that took place in a science learning environment. I will also share how a teacher bridged students’ uncertainty by applying their funds of knowledge in a chemistry classroom.
Edmonds, L. M. (2016) Student-centered Funds of Knowledge in the Chemistry Classroom (PhD thesis). University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD. Lee, O. (2005) Science education with English language learners: Synthesis and research agenda. Review of Educational Research, 75/4, 491–530. Lewis, C. / Enciso, P. / Moje, E.B. (2007) Reframing sociocultural research on literacy: Identity, agency, and power. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Greenberg, J. / Moll, L. C. (1990) Creating zones of possibilities: Combining social contexts for instruction. In: L. C. Moll (Ed.): Vygotsky and education: Instructional implications and applications of sociohistorical psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 319-348. U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Educational Sciences, National Center for Educational Statistics. (2017) Status and Trends in the Education of racial and Ethnic Groups. Retrieved January 29, 2019, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/raceindicators _raa.asp U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Educational Sciences, National Center for Educational Statistics. (2017) The Condition of Education: Science Performance. Retrieved January 29, 2019, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cne.asp Vygotsky, L. S. (1978) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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