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.



Enacting acts of authentication in a robotics competition: An interpretivist study

Geeta Verma, Anton Puvirajah and Horace Webb

While the science classroom primarily remains a site for knowledge acquisition through teacher directed experiences, other sites exist outside of the classroom that allow for student generation of scientific knowledge. These sites provide opportunities for linguistic and social interactions to play a powerful role in situating students’ science learning experiences. Augmenting students’ formal school science experiences with informal experiences outside of the classroom enables them to intersect their personal knowledge with canonical disciplinary knowledge. This allows for conditions of practice that are more relevant to the students. In this study we introduce the notion of acts of authentication to examine the nature of students’ linguistic and social activities in an informal setting—a regional robotics competition. These acts of authentication are a) participating in talk (including everyday); b) participating in productive disciplinary engagement (by co-constructing and critiquing knowledge); and c) being a member of a community of practice. We used Critical Discourse Analysis to examine students’ and mentor’s dialogic language to gain insights into the nature of their robotics experiences. Our findings indicate that the robotics experience offered rich opportunities for students to engage in acts of authentication. Our study offers conceptual insights into how the culture of the robotics activities both constructs and is constructed by the linguistic and social experiences of the students and their mentors.


Using metaphor to translate the science of resilience and developmental outcomes

Nathaniel Kendall-Taylor, Abigail Haydon

Developmental scientists have used a variety of linguistic devices to communicate the science of resilience, but their effectiveness at improving understanding and expanding support for evidence-based social policies has not been empirically tested. We describe the process of developing, testing, and refining an Explanatory Metaphor to communicate the science of resilience to the public and policymakers. We argue that public understanding is key to bridging the research-to-practice divide and that communications is a social science endeavor in its own right that requires careful empirical research.


The Power of Simplicity: Explaining All-There-Is with the most common thousand words

Roberto Trotta

The book Edge of the Sky recounts the story of the Universe — All-There-Is — and its outstanding mysteries by following a female scientist — Student-Woman — as she spends one night observing distant galaxies — Star-Crowds — with the help of a giant telescope — Big-Seer. The story is written using only the most common 1000 words in the English language. In this article author and astrophysicist, Roberto Trotta, reflects on how he came to write the book, why he chose this format and what he has learnt along the way.