Learning science: Sociocultural Dimensions of Intellectual Engagement
Hanrahan, Mary U. (2002) Learning science: Sociocultural Dimensions of Intellectual Engagement. In Australasian Science Education Research Association, 11-14 July, 2002, Townsville, Qld. (Unpublished)
This paper takes a sociocultural perspective as it addresses the problem of engaging all students in learning science, in contrast to a companion (ASERA ’02) paper where I address the issue in relation to psychological issues, both papers arising from the same set of research studies in science education. In both cases I am asserting that the interaction between the teacher and student is critical in either engaging or alienating students, and, in this paper will address the language aspects of the relationship. Seen in the light of sociocultural, including sociolinguistic, theories, my research findings imply that `science literacy’ could usefully be reconceptualised as the learning of a discourse, or as the learning of a literacy or language—as literacy or language teachers might define these. This paper addresses the development of science literacy as a process of situated learning within a meaningful social context, what Lemke (1995) called an "ecosocial system". From this perspective, learning science is the learning of a discourse. This includes becoming familiar with genres but not in isolation from meaningful community practice. I conclude that if science is seen as a distinct discourse practice, then this has implications for the learning and teaching of science and for teacher education.
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