Urban middle school students’ reflections on authentic science inquiry

María S. Rivera Maulucci, Bryan A. Brown, Salina T. Grey, Shayna Sullivan

This study explores the experiences of six urban middle school students in an authentic science inquiry program. Drawing on data including teaching journal entries, student work folders, and semi-structured focus group interviews of six participants, the findings explore six dimensions of authentic science inquiry, an approach to science inquiry in which: (a) students develop authentic and personally relevant science knowledge; (b) students’ funds of knowledge shape their inquiries; (c) students’ relationships with science and sustained interest in science are transformed; (d) students’ identities as potential scientists are affirmed; (e) students engage in science as a social enterprise; and (f) students develop a sense of agency. The findings situate authentic science inquiry as an individual and collective characteristic of learners and the learning community. We make the case that authentic science inquiry projects provide students with a greater sense of academic agency, afford students opportunities to gain expertise, and have the potential to challenge students’ understandings of science, enhance how they see themselves in relationship to science, and improve their achievement in science.

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