Ethnographic performance: a change agent for drama teaching and learning

R. Sallis

This article considers the ways in which an ethnographic performance can be an effective means of data generation, analysis and presentation for a researcher working in collaboration with drama teachers and students in an educational setting. The creation of the ethnodramatic play was part of a three-year Ph.D. educational ethnography conducted by the researcher in the Drama department of an inner-city co-educational government school in Melbourne, Australia. The researcher mapped the development of the play including how the drama teachers and their students collaborated on its development by providing feedback as it was being written and performed. The topic of the play was boys’ participation in drama in a co-educational learning environment, how they ‘performed’ gender in the classes and how this affected, and was affected by, the drama teachers, the female students and other males in the class. The article examines how the development of the ethnodramatic play was a transformative experience for the school community. The ethnodramatic process affected a change for the better in the work habits of the teachers and how some of their students viewed their participation in the drama classes.



‘On my mind’s world map, I see an Africa’: Bando de Teatro Olodum’s re-routing of Afro-Brazilian identity

Michelle Nicholson-Sanz

A group of black children in the city of Salvador da Bahia, intrigued by their teacher’s explanation that black Brazilians are descendants of Africans, embark on a quest to search for Africa. This is the central plot of Áfricas – Bando de Teatro Olodum’s theatre production for young people that premiered in 2007 (Teatro Vila Velha, Salvador da Bahia). In this critical reflection I focus on the productive intersections between diaspora and race, and consider the ways in which Áfricas claims a diaspora sensibility for Afro-Brazilians by enacting, both for the performers and for the audience, an awareness of themselves as an ethnic group with transnational roots. Drawing on understandings of diaspora as a contingent process rather than a way to reify certain communities, I argue that Áfricas’ staging of the connections between Brazil and Africa opens up a space in which young audiences can engage in what Chantal Mouffe calls ‘agonistic pluralism’ (2007), a debate in which passions and affects critically inform ‘the creation of collective political identities’. I assert that the show’s exploration of new formulations of Afro-Brazilian identity serves a therapeutic function for the black community in Salvador, who are often excluded in a country where the whiter one looks ensures greater access to social and economic privileges.


Ethnically diverse students’ knowledge structures in first-semester organic chemistry

Enrique J. Lopez, Richard J. Shavelson, Kiruthiga Nandagopal, Evan Szu, John Penn

Chemistry courses remain a challenge for many undergraduate students. In particular, first-semester organic chemistry has been labeled as a gatekeeper with high attrition rates, especially among students of color. Our study examines a key factor related to conceptual understanding in science and predictive of course outcomes—knowledge structures. Previous research on knowledge structures has focused on differences between experts and novices. Given the increasing ethnic diversity of college classrooms and research indicating unique differences in certain higher order cognitive processes associated cultural practices and ethnicity, it is important to investigate whether similar patterns exist with respect to knowledge structures. Our study utilized concept maps to measure knowledge structures. Two separate analyses where performed to determine whether or not ethnically diverse students’ organize their knowledge of organic chemistry content in structurally different ways. The first analysis utilized concept map proposition scoring to examine the influence of prior science achievement and ethnicity on knowledge structures. The second analysis examined holistic map structures to determine whether or not ethnically diverse students show qualitatively distinct structures overall. Results show significant mean differences on concept map proposition scores related to both prior science achievement and ethnic group membership. However, examination of holistic structures revealed that students’ qualitative holistic structures did not vary by ethnic group membership. Taken together, our findings suggest that variation in students’ knowledge structures are related to prior science achievement across ethnic groups, not qualitative differences in the ways ethnically diverse students’ structure knowledge. Implications for teaching and learning in organic chemistry are discussed.


Becoming (less) scientific: A longitudinal study of students’ identity work from elementary to middle school science

Heidi B. Carlone, Catherine M. Scott, Cassi Lowder

Students’ declining science interest in middle school is often attributed to psychological factors like shifts of motivational values, decrease in self-efficacy, or doubts about the utility of schooling in general. This paper adds to accounts of the middle school science problem through an ethnographic, longitudinal case study of three diverse students’ identity work from fourth- to sixth-grade school science. Classroom observations and interviews are used as primary data sources to examine: (1) the cultural and structural aspects of the fourth- and sixth-grade classrooms, including the celebrated subject positions, that enabled and constrained students’ identity work as science learners; (2) the nature of students’ identity work, including their positioning related to the celebrated subject positions within and across fourth- and sixth-grade science; and (3) the ways race, class, and gender figured into students’ identity work and positioning. In fourth-grade, all experienced excellent science pedagogy and performed themselves as scientifically competent and engaged learners who recognized themselves and got recognized by others as scientific. By sixth-grade, their identity work in school science became dramatically less scientific. Celebrated subject positions did not demand scientific thinking or robust engagement in scientific practices and were heavily mediated by race, class, and gender. Our results highlight three insights related to the middle school problem: (1) when students’ social identity work was leveraged in service of robust science learning, their affiliation increased; (2) academic success in school science did not equate to affiliation or deep engagement with science; and (3) race, class, and gender figured into students’ successes in, threats to, and identity work related to becoming scientific. We end the article by providing a framework and questions that teachers, teacher educators, and researchers might use to design and evaluate the equity of science education learning spaces.