Science and Society in the Classroom: Using Sociocultural Perspectives to Develop Science Education

by Geeta Verma


In 21st-century America, one of the goals of the education is to successfully prepare students for their meaningful, sustained, and robust participation in a democratic society. In the context of K–12 science education, this means educating students so that they develop into future adult citizen capable of considering and deciding on conflicting issues and policies influenced by science, technology, and sustainability issues. The challenge for science education is thus to find successful ways to integrate content, pedagogy, and citizenship education.

It is important to examine curricular approaches in science classrooms since most of the science education a student receives take place in the context of a formal school science curriculum. Most curricular materials in science education allow students to engage in what is commonly referred to as an inform, verify, practice (IVF) format. Using this format, students gain access to information either through a lecture or a text, attempt to verify the presented information through lab activities, and may practice the mastered information with questions and/or problems. These curricular approaches do not explicitly integrate citizenship education to facilitate students’ understandings of issues and policies shaped by science, technology, and sustainability issues. In order to bridge this gap, curricula guided by sociocultural perspectives may be a possible answer.

Existing literature integrating sociocultural perspectives in the school science curriculum include context-based science, connected science, contextualized science, and/or socioscientific issues (SSI). These curricular approaches are being examined to document their effectiveness by linking social dilemmas with conceptual or technological links to science. This study integrates science education reform documents, blends sociocultural theoretical frameworks, and draws upon empirical data to contribute to the use of sociocultural theory in science education in an urban middle school setting.

Current findings indicate that urban children are not experiencing much success when it comes to school science. Traditional paradigms for science education research focus on the learning of science using IVF format with little regard for the sociocultural context.

In this book, the author posits that the exploration of urban students’ engagement with school science using sociocultural perspectives may uncover factors that influence students learning and success in the science classrooms. The author further proposes that using curricula framed around sociocultural perspectives may develop students’ understandings about the role science and technology plays in their lives, as well as well as in the larger society, thus making science more accessible and relevant for these children in urban settings.

There has been no study to date that examines the impact of curricular approaches guided by a sociocultural framework (contextualized curriculum in this study) on the comprehension level and attitudes of students. The study fills that gap and holds implications for the inclusion of alternative curricular framework in urban middle school science classrooms.

The author has used a mixed-methods study and draws upon both quantitative and qualitative data sources. The study design allows the reader to appreciate the perspectives of participating students and teachers on the use of contextualized curricular framework versus curricular framework guided by IVF practices in urban middle school science classrooms.

This is an important book for collections in education, particularly science and K–12.


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