Science language Wanted Alive: Through the dialectical/dialogical lens of Vygotsky and the Bakhtin circle

Wolff-Michael Roth

Over the past two decades, science educators increasingly have become interested in the role of language in the learning of science and have drawn on the work of Bakhtin, among others, for understanding the dialogical nature of knowledge in a sociocultural framework. However, the nature of language and its relation to thinking have not substantially changed and, in many ways, are incommensurable with the cultural–historical, materialist dialectical underpinning of the original framing of the sociocultural and dialogical approaches in the theories of L. S. Vygotsky and M. M. Bakhtin and his circle (e.g., V. N. Vološinov). Most importantly, currently available analyses of science classroom talk do not appear to exhibit sufficient appreciation of the fact that words, statements, and language are living phenomena, that is, they inherently change in speaking. In this paper, I begin by working out the premise that language is a living phenomenon that changes in use. I then present two key insights on language-in-use that derive from the works of Vygotsky and the Bakhtin circle, which are used to develop a theoretical and methodological frame. These key insights and the theoretical aspects of this paper are exemplified with materials from a concept mapping session in a 12th-grade physics course. The proposed model has considerable implications for theorizing the relation between classroom talk and formal written genres of expression, and gives rise to many new research questions.


Environmentalism, stories and science: exploring applied theatre processes for sustainability education

Susan Davis, Michael Tarrant

The 2012 Research in Drama Education (RiDE) themed edition on Environmentalism (Heddon and Mackey 2012) and the response by Forgasz (2013) draws attention to some of the issues and dilemmas that arise when considering how to work with Applied Theatre practices to explore human/environment relationships, climate change and sustainability issues. This response shares initial findings from a pilot programme that has involved undergraduate students participating in a study abroad programme with a particular focus on sustainability education. Some of the dilemmas faced include balancing the provision of ‘scientific’ and environmental learnings within site-specific experiences and those that aim to provide a sense of connection to place and environment. Other issues for consideration include the purpose of using fictional frames when the real-life frame is already quite powerful. This is particularly so when working with students who are not drama or arts students.


Come rain or shine? Public expectation on local weather change and differential effects on climate change attitude

Alex Y. Lo, C. Y. Jim

Tailored messages are instrumental to climate change communication. Information about the global threat can be ‘localised’ by demonstrating its linkage with local events. This research ascertains the relationship between climate change attitude and perception of local weather, based on a survey involving 800 Hong Kong citizens. Results indicate that concerns about climate change increase with expectations about the likelihood and impacts of local weather change. Climate change believers attend to all three types of adverse weather events, namely, temperature rises, tropical cyclones and prolonged rains. Climate scepticism, however, is not associated with expectation about prolonged rains. Differential spatial orientations are a possible reason. Global climate change is an unprecedented and distant threat, whereas local rain is a more familiar and localised weather event. Global climate change should be articulated in terms that respect local concerns. Localised framing may be particularly effective for engaging individuals holding positive views about climate change science.

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Frames of scientific evidence: How journalists represent the (un)certainty of molecular medicine in science television programs

Georg Ruhrmann, Lars Guenther, Sabrina Heike Kessler, Jutta Milde

For laypeople, media coverage of science on television is a gateway to scientific issues. Defining scientific evidence is central to the field of science, but there are still questions if news coverage of science represents scientific research findings as certain or uncertain. The framing approach is a suitable framework to classify different media representations; it is applied here to investigate the frames of scientific evidence in film clips (n = 207) taken from science television programs. Molecular medicine is the domain of interest for this analysis, due to its high proportion of uncertain and conflicting research findings and risks. The results indicate that television clips vary in their coverage of scientific evidence of molecular medicine. Four frames were found: Scientific Uncertainty and Controversy, Scientifically Certain Data, Everyday Medical Risks, and Conflicting Scientific Evidence. They differ in their way of framing scientific evidence and risks of molecular medicine.