Talking and taking positions : An encounter between action rsearch and the gendered and racialised discourses of school science
This thesis concerns processes of power relations in and about the science classroom. It draws on action research involving science and mathematics teachers in the Swedish upper secondary school (for students between 16 and 19 years). For the analysis, feminist post-structuralism, gender, and discourse theories (e.g. Butler and Foucault) are combined with critical action research methodology (e.g. Carr and Kemmis) and discourse analysis (e.g. Wetherell and Hall). The aim of the study is to make visible processes of inequality and to investigate how these are constructed in ‘talk’ or discourse about teaching and learning. The study grew out of teachers’ actions/small-scale projects in their own classrooms and so the study also investigates if and how action research can contribute to making visible, challenging and changing unequal practices and discourses of dominance. The first part of the thesis deals with this process and the analysis suggests that post-structural critiques of language and discourse are helpful in enabling actions to challenge inequities in the science classroom that currently exist. Five different articles constitute the second part of the thesis, two of which explore and survey research literature and argue for a need for more studies which investigate critically how science is shaped by specific social, cultural and historical contexts. Additionally, it is argued that it is important to focus not only on measuring differences among students but also on investigating how difference is constructed and how inequities can be challenged. The experiences and bodily feelings of what ‘race’ can do to gender (and vice versa) in a specific situation are recounted and examined in the third article which also invites different positions and complexity into the research field. The next two articles investigate how power and knowledge are produced, resisted and challenged in teacher and student talk within the action research project. The analysis draws on different discourses in contemporary Swedish society; for example a science discourse which produces school science (and its teachers and students) as high status, a gender equality discourse, a gender difference discourse, and an immigrant discourse which produces ‘immigrant students’ as problematic. Analysis of teacher talk reveals, for example, that long-established hierarchies and taken-for-granted values of school subjects in relation to gender reproduce advantage for some teachers but not for others, that teachers participate in the gendering of science subjects, and that changes in the teaching of science are resisted. Also students are located inside and outside the discourses they draw on, which qualifies or disqualifies them as ‘proper’ science students. Different borders are highlighted to show how students attach meaning to gender, social class, and ethnicity in different situations. Sometimes borders are produced inside bodies (the notion of the gendered brain, for example) and sometimes between cultures or according to family background. Resistance to dominant discourses is also visible in students’ talk and the ways in which teachers and students reproduce borders and exclusion in the science classroom through their practices. The analysis points out the need to initiate new research which can deconstruct among others, discourses of femininity and masculinity, the ‘immigrant student’ and school science.
Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation
Keywords:INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH AREAS; Gender studies; action research; discourse analysis; power relations; processes of inequality; science classroom; the Swedish upper secondary school
Date of Publication:01/01/2007