`Canadian-Grown': Student Perspectives About Learning Science in a Culturally Diverse Classroom

  • Author / Creator
    Onuczko, Tracy
  • As a result of science being viewed as universal and promoting Eurocentric values, science education has been suggested to be inaccessible for culturally and linguistically diverse students as measured by achievement gaps, poor standardized test results, and racial and ethnic disparities in science. Therefore, the literature suggests that culturally and linguistically diverse students will face barriers in their epistemological understanding of science. This qualitative case study sought to explore student perspectives of the implementation of science education in a culturally diverse classroom. Data collection focused on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 13 student participants in a culturally diverse classroom, and twice weekly classroom observations for three months. Students in this study defined science as the disciplines demarcated in school and universal in content. However, they also believed that science was prone to influence, particularly in the ways in which scientists interpreted results and arrived at decisions. While students had varied opinions on whether culture influenced science education, they did not feel that in their particular science class culture mattered as they all felt that they were 'Canadian-grown' - as in, students were all learning in the same classroom therefore they shared similar values and understanding with respect to learning science in this particular context. There was no evidence from observations within this study, from the students, their achievement, or their teacher to suggest that students encountered cultural challenges or barriers in accessing school science. However, the student participants held a range of diverse beliefs and values with respect to different topics within their science class but were never asked to incorporate their perspectives into their learning. These were potentially missed opportunities to make their science class more personally meaningful. The findings from this research support recent concerns that incorporating culture and multiculturalism in science education in order to address achievement and access gaps to science may be based on hypothesized links. While incorporating culture and multiculturalism within science class is important, for example, to value diversity of perspective, as an understanding of the multicultural society in which students live, and to better address the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the assumptions regarding student's inability to epistemologically access science education if culture is not included was not supported by the students in this study.

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  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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