Culture And Science Education Education Essay

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Cultural border crossing is said to occur when a person is moving from one social community to another. A student recently excelled in her GCE 'O' Level June Examination and was transferred to an International School of the country from a science prime school of the country by her parents. This girl for instance will be experiencing cultural border crossing as she is moving from a local government school to an international school where the cultures of this international school is largely distinctive from her previous school (as this school's system is an adaptation of the United Kingdom's educational system).

Collateral learning on the other hand is dealing with how the learners build their scientific knowledge with slight interference and interaction of their indigenous concepts. In a simple educational notion, collateral learning can be said as a solution to how the students cope with the cultural border crossing. There are different types of collateral learning (as this particular theme of learning is not of the interest of the writing, it will not be elaborated further) for instance, for the girl who just entered the international school, she has learned that in this new school the classroom learning environment is different from what she has been experiencing even when she was in the prime science school for about four and a half yeasr. She was said to be really quiet in the class by her Biology teacher and the teacher thought she was kind of not interested in her study but her results showed the otherwise. She didn't expect that her teacher would see her that way as she was mostly expected to be quiet during the lesson in her previous school. Now she learned that she needs to be more actively involved and she is slowly becoming actively participating in the lesson. This might be termed as dependent collateral type of learning.

The existence of the cultural border crossing and collateral learning in education particularly in science education has to be realised by the educational authorities especially in the development of the country's science educational curriculum. Cobern and Aikenhead (1998) stated that science is a system of meaning and symbols with which social interaction takes place. They also argued that educators need to be posed with question on to the extent which science's system of meaning is compatible with, or attractive to, students' culturally-based systems of meanings. Evidence has shown that cultural compatibility improves education in general but too often the compatibility is in partial. The main idea is for the Science educational authorities of Brunei to provide the students with conceptualised approach to teaching science that draws upon the cultural worlds of students and makes sense in those worlds (Cobern & Aikenhead, 1998).

A citation on O'Loughlin (1992) by Cobern and Aikenhead (1998), suggested as a supreme goal that students 'master and critique scientific ways of knowing without, in the process, sacrificing their own personally and culturally constructed ways of knowing'. The capacity and motivation to master and critique scientific ways of knowing seem to depend on the ease with which students cross the cultural borders between their everyday worlds and the world of science. One implication for teaching, therefore is that instructional methods and materials should: (1) make border crossing explicit for students, (2) facilitate these border crossings, (3) promote discourse so that students, not just teacher, are talking science, (4) substantiate and build on the legitimacy of students' personally and culturally constructed ways of knowing, and (5) teach the knowledge, skills, and values of Western science in the context of its societal roles.

In investigating the incorporation of the teaching what scientific culture entails in the everyday life of the learner as a strategy for helping students cross the border between indigenous culture and school science school subculture, this piece of writing is proposing on how teaching can be and should be done in such a way that it allows students to see or experience the scientific culture and its association to their everyday life. This writing is therefore mainly grounded on the suggestion made by Cobern & Aikenhead (1998) on the implication for teaching as mentioned earlier.

Defining science cultures

Culture can be defined as the "norms, values, beliefs, expectations, and conventional actions" of a group as mentioned by Aikenhead and Jegede. Science has all this embedded in it but variation in some of these terms is very much expected as our scientists themselves are coming from different sets of background. (Aikenhead, 1985; Cobern, 1991; Gauld, 1982; Ziman,1984)

We need to teach science subject as it is view by the students and not by what we believe science to be for the students.

Incorporating the teaching what scientific culture entails in the everyday life of the learner in to the science curriculum by:

Articulated a policy of teaching science embedded in a life world milieu that helps students make sense out of their natural, technological, and social worlds.

Provides multiple views of the natural world but primarily from a student's perspective (Aikenhead, 1994c)

Based on different but related research programs in Western educational systems, Costa

(1995), Cobern (1994b), and Layton et al. (1993, Ch. 8) come to very similar policy

recommendations: we should teach science embedded in a social and technological milieu that

has scope and force for students' worlds, worldviews, or practical experiences (respectively); and

we need to dismantle barriers between students and science.

Inroads have already been made in non-Western communities (Baker and Taylor, 1995; George and Glasgow, 1988; MacIvor, 1995; Pomeroy, 1994). At the same time within Western science education, a movement has articulated a policy of teaching science embedded in a life world milieu that helps students make sense out of their natural, technological, and social worlds. The science-technology-society (STS) conceptualization of science education has come of age after about 23 years of research and development (Gallagher, 1971; Solomon and Aikenhead, 1994). Contrasted with traditional school science's singular view of the natural world from only a scientist's perspective, STS provides multiple views of the natural world but primarily from a student's perspective (Aikenhead, 1994c). This student-oriented multiple-vista conceptualization of science education harmonizes with the cross-cultural approach to science education described above (Jegede, 1994).

Based on many STS curricula around the world, each with its own definition of STS content, Aikenhead (1994c) suggested the following encompassing definition: STS content in a science education curriculum is comprised of an interaction between science and technology, or between science and society, and any one or combination of the following:

* A technological artefact, process, or expertise

* The interaction between technology and society

* A societal issue related to science or technology

* Social science content that sheds light on a societal issue related to science and technology

* A philosophical, historical, or social issue within the scientific or technological community.

This STS content (a combination of social issues and the social studies of science, Bingle and

Gaskell, 1994) is integrated with science content (the knowledge, values, and skills of subculture science) in various ways and to varying degrees, described by Aikenhead (1994c).

One general implication of a cultural perspective on learning science is that STS education provides a concrete starting point for us to reflect on better ways to develop and teach a science curriculum. Some critical issues arise, however, and need to be resolved.

If students are going to cross the border between everyday subcultures and the subculture of science, border crossings must be explicit and students need some way of signifying to themselves and others which subculture they are talking in, at any given moment.

A promising technique to accomplish this clarification emerged from the Melanie study (Aikenhead, 1996). The technique is a concrete example of Hodson's (1993) and Driver, Asoko et al.'s (1994) idea to draw a clear distinction between the language students use to explore and develop their own ideas about natural phenomena, and the language scientists conventionally use. The technique I am suggesting has students divide a page in their notebook in half, labeling the left-hand column "my idea" (personal knowledge of an event or explanation from the point of view of one of the student's life-world subcultures, and using its language) and the right-hand column "subculture of science" (canonical knowledge using appropriate scientific language).

Border crossings may be facilitated in classrooms by studying the subcultures of students' life-worlds and by contrasting them with a critical analysis of the subculture of science (its norms, values, beliefs, expectations, and conventional actions), consciously moving back and forth between life-worlds and the science-world, switching language conventions explicitly, switching conceptualizations explicitly, switching values explicitly, switching epistemologies explicitly, but never requiring students to adopt a scientific way of knowing as their personal way.

To facilitate students' border crossings, teachers and students both need to be flexible and playful, and to feel at ease in the less familiar culture (Lugones, 1987). This will be accomplished differently in different classrooms. As O'Loughlin (1992) argued, it has a lot to do with the social environment of the science classroom, the social interactions between a teacher and students, and the social interactions among students themselves. Thus, a teacher who engages in culture brokering should promote discourse (Cobern & Aikenhead, 1998; Driver et al., 1994) so students are provided with opportunities to engage in the following three types of activity: (1) students should have opportunities for talking within their own life-world cultural framework without sanctions for being "unscientific;" (2) students should have opportunities for being immersed in either their everyday Aboriginal culture or the culture of Western science as students engage in some activity (e.g. problem solving or decision making in an authentic or simulated event); and (3) students should be consciously aware of which culture they are participating in at any given moment.

Integration of Western and Aboriginal Sciences

A Rekindling Traditions unit brings Western science into the student's worldview rather than insisting that students construct a worldview of a Western scientist. In other words, we try to avoid teaching science in an assimilative way. All the same, students are expected to see the world through the eyes of a Western scientist just as we would expect students to understand another person's point of view, similar to an anthropologist learning about a foreign culture (Aikenhead, 1997).

Another common pattern of integration is an Aboriginal framework established at the beginning of each unit. A framework reflects local knowledge. In a later lesson, Western science and technology from the Saskatchewan science curriculum will be introduced to students as useful knowledge from another culture. The introductory Aboriginal content takes the form of practical action relevant to a community, for example, going on a snowshoe hike, finding indigenous plants that heal, listening to an Elder, interviewing people in the community, or assisting in a local wild rice harvest. An introductory framework seems to be most successful when each student feels a direct connection to Mother Earth. A physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual connection helps ensure respect for the community's Aboriginal knowledge and begins to nurture students' coming to knowing.

In 1992, McKinley and her colleagues argued against a type of integration they called "bicultural science education," an approach supported by Ritchie and Butler (1990) and Ritchie and Kane (1990). Bicultural science teaching included Aboriginal examples and contexts to make Western science more relevant to Aboriginal students, but the approach apparently did not establish an Aboriginal framework for instruction. Instead, this bicultural approach maintained the science curriculum's Western framework as a basis for instruction, though it attempted to increase the self-esteem of Aboriginal students by placing value on their culture. As an alternative to bicultural science education, McKinley and her colleagues (1992) proposed a type of integration they called "bilingual education" where instruction was in M~ori and the curriculum was entirely grounded within a framework of "Te Ao M~ori," a M~ori worldview (McKinley, 1996).

Culturally sensitive Rekindling Traditions units were designed to help Aboriginal students feel that their science courses were a natural part of their lives. Students participated in those units in ways that were culturally meaningful. The units gave students access to Western science and technology without requiring them to adopt the worldview endemic to Western science, and without requiring them to change their own cultural identity. However, for those students who have a natural gift or talent for Western science, a Rekindling Traditions unit lays the foundation and encouragement for further study in science and engineering. In the future, these graduates can play a critical role in strengthening the resource management, health care, and economic development of their Aboriginal community (MacIvor, 1995; McKinley et al., 1992).

For other students, the units identify two important cultures: the culture of their Aboriginal community, and the culture of Western science and technology. In the everyday world, both influence students' personal cultural identities. The Rekindling Traditions units help students feel at ease in both cultures and help students move back and forth between the two cultures. Fleer (1997, p. 17) concluded, "Moving between world views creates high level thinkers." Most students have a chance to master and critique aspects of Western science without losing something valuable from their own cultural way of knowing. By achieving smoother border crossings between those two cultures, students are expected to become better citizens in a society enriched by cultural differences. This is an essence of cross-cultural teaching.


The science methods course should develop a more realistic representation

of science suitable to the pre-service early childhood teachers' needs

The learning experiences presented in the science methods course clearly challenged the pre-service teachers' view of science. That was part of the aims of the methods course. Rather than perceiving science as something complex and abstract as they did in high school, which could not be taught to very young children, the pre-service teachers have been presented with a different representation of science. Through the use of authentic science learning experiences situated within an early childhood context, the pre-service teachers have seen that science can be taught to very young children, can be presented in a simple manner, can be inclusive (where all can and do succeed), can be open-ended (where there is no right or wrong answer), and can be integrated. Clearly demonstrating to the pre-service teachers what early childhood science 'looks like' provided them with a new lens from which to view the destination of their border crossing.

Typical school science curricula, even when they claim to focus on the life of the child, do so only in a very oblique way. The obsession with preparing students for studying science at higher levels seems to overshadow attempts at genuinely situating the curriculum in the life of the student. The recommendation is made that an orientation to science curriculum development that actively considers the traditional background experiences of students is highly desirable for Caribbean students.

Imagine if teachers were able to reflect on the different ways their students' experience cultural border crossing into their class (smooth, adventurous, managed, hazardous, or impossible border crossings). When we perceive our students differently, our instruction can change accordingly. This is briefly indicated here for the first three categories of students. (More examples are found in Aikenhead, 1996, 1997).

For Potential Scientists, borders do not seem to exist at all. Much has been written about enculturing such students into the practice of Western science in ways like apprentices are initiated (Costa, 1993; Hawkins and Pea, 1987; Ryan, 1981). The teacher's role is one of coaching apprentices. These students comprise a very small proportion of any student body.

"I Want to Know" Students are usually challenged by adventurous border crossings into school science. A sensitive teacher provides guidance for these students to support their self-esteem and to nurture their interest in a scientific apprenticeship. This explicit support is captured by the notion of tour guide. A teacher would modify the apprenticeship approach by giving "I Want to Know" Students the guidance and support that one would expect from a tour guide in a foreign culture. This approach tends to bridge the differences between the social context of learning and the social context of use, identified earlier as a problem for science teaching (Layton,1991; Layton et al., 1993).

Other Smart Kids often manage their border crossings into school science either by relying on their capacity to handle academic abstractions easily, or by playing Fatima's rules that help them pass courses without understanding the course content meaningfully (Aikenhead and Jegede, 1999). Manageable border crossings could become smooth if students perceived the content of the course as relevant to their personal world. Thus, a sensitive teacher would connect the course content to students' academic interests by constructing a bridge to the culture of Western science out of technical and social issues, and out of the history, epistemology, and sociology of science (i.e. STS content; Solomon and Aikenhead, 1994). Because Other Smart Kids are travellers in an unfamiliar culture, they require a degree of guidance from a travel-agent type of teacher who provides incentives for them to travel into the culture of science, incentives such as topics (water quality), issues (genetically altered food), or events (scientific controversies such as cold fusion) that create the need to know more about the culture of science. The teacher's travel-agent role is often one of co-learner.