Positionings of racial, ethnic, and linguistic minority students in high school biology class: Implications for science education in diverse classrooms

Minjung Ryu

In the present study, I analyze ethnographic data from a year-long study of two Advanced Placement (AP) Biology classes that enrolled students with diverse racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds. Specifically, I consider participation, positioning, and learning of newcomer Korean students in the focal classes. Building on the notion of figured worlds, I define the AP Biology classes as a localized figured world in which students position and are positioned within its interpretive frameworks and analyze how newcomer Koreans are positioned in relation to each other. The analysis illustrates that students were relationally positioned, primarily based on their biology achievement and discursive participation, among other interpretive frameworks. In this localized figured world, newcomer Korean students were positioned at a lower status because they did not participate in the classroom discourses, as well as their lack of speech and certain forms of speech indicated their failure to adequately learn English and U.S. school practices. Based on the findings, I discuss practices and ideologies about science, classroom participation, and transnational students that are prevalent in broader contexts and reflected in the localized figured world. In light of the national and international contexts in which increasingly more people migrate across national borders, I draw implications for science education in racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse classrooms.

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