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Socially Transformative Science Pedagogy for African American Males: Dispatches from the Vanguard

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Abstract

Although there is a significant body of work that underscores the importance of pedagogy aimed at being responsive to students' unique racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, there is relatively little work that helps science practitioners to understand what this pedagogy looks like in practice. Drawing on Mutegi's (2011) description of socially transformative mathematics and science curriculum and Ladson-Billings' (1995) framing of culturally responsive pedagogy, this article describes a four-week summer science camp for African American adolescent males. The article employs the methodological approach of Critical Race Theory in order to illustrate for the reader what socially transformative and culturally relevant science instruction might look like in practice.
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Abstract
Although there is a significant body of work that underscores the
importance of pedagogy aimed at being responsive to students’ unique
racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, there is relatively little work that
helps science practitioners to understand what this pedagogy looks like in
practice. Drawing on Mutegi’s (2011) description of socially
transformative mathematics and science curriculum and Ladson-Billings’
(1995) framing of culturally responsive pedagogy, this article describes a
four-week summer science camp for African American adolescent males.
The article employs the methodological approach of Critical Race Theory
in order to illustrate for the reader what socially transformative and
culturally relevant science instruction might look like in practice.
"
Key$words:$D=(0=+'(()"J2-:$,-&12"324'5$5)H"#$%&'(()"*+',-.$+/'0&12"
D=++&%=(=/H"6.+&%',"6/2+&%',"#%&2,%2H"K=04$$+"A4=%'0&$,H"#*A7"
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One of the most persistent problems of science education practice
for at least the past 30 years has been the low academic performance of
African Americans as compared to students from other racial groups.
While in no way implicating African Americans as the source of the
problem, differential trends have been documented at many levels. For
example, African Americans have consistently comprised fewer than two
percent of all practicing Ph.D.-holding scientists since these statistics were
first recorded in 1979 (National Science Board, 2000). Similarly, large-
scale statistical studies show that African American high school students
far under-perform their peers. Muller, Stage and Kinzie (2001) report
NELS data which show that the mean science score of African American
12th graders (male and female) is lower than the mean science score of
White 8th graders.
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Literature$Review$
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i The author used related terms (e.g. Afro American, Black, Negro, etc.). These did not produce
more articles on African American/Black children.
ii Baba is the title used to address camp counselors. It is a Swahili word used by younger people to
refer to older men.
... In fact, the Blackness of children themselves is completely absent. Mutegi and Morton (2012) point out that for the 25 years between 1984 and 2011 only 8 of over 7,000 articles (0.11%) in NSTA practitioner journals 1 address African Americans in any way. Only 2 of these 8 articles describe pedagogical approaches that are best suited for African American learners. ...
... In response to this, their education should be one that positions them to dismantle systemic racism. Building on the work of critical theorists (e.g., Allen, 2004;Freire, 1970;Macedo, 1993), Mutegi and colleagues have applied the notion of socially transformative curriculum to both science (Mutegi, Lewis, & Smith-Mutegi, 2017;Mutegi & Morton, 2012) and mathematics (Pitts Bannister, Davis, Mutegi, Thompson, & Lewis, 2017). ...
Chapter
This chapter is a description of practice grounded in the idea that the primary problems Black children face in schools are political problems. The chapter articulates three aspects of science education that should be reconceptualized if we are to adequately address these problems. These three aspects are: the purpose of science education; science content; and the role of the instructor. The theoretical foundation for reconceptualizing these three aspects of science education comes from Goduka’s (2005) articulation of eZiko, Mutegi’s (2011) articulation of socially transformative STEM curriculum, and Codrington’s (2014) work on liberatory education. Drawing from this theoretical foundation, the chapter illustrates the how science educators could reconceptualize the purpose of science education, science content, and the role of the instructor by describing a year-long project in which three, high school-aged, young ladies and one university professor worked collaboratively as science writers. Through the Black Kids Read - Science Writers project, these young ladies took on the task of authoring science-oriented literature for elementary-aged children. [The book can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.3726/b14757].
... In other writings on socially transformative curriculum (Mutegi, 2013b;Mutegi & Morton, 2012;Mutegi et al., 2018;Pitts Bannister et al., 2017), Mutegi and colleagues argue that science education for learners of African descent should prepare them to fight against systemic racism. Additionally, one area of mastery in this curricular approach is critique: wherein students work to apply their knowledge of science to an understanding of how systemic racism is established and maintained. ...
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Although the Next Generation Science Standards and the National Science Education Standards prioritize the production of critical consumers of science as an overarching goal, there is relatively little science education research aimed at fostering critical perspectives among science teachers. The purpose of this theory-generative study is to identify ideas that might serve as affordances or hindrances to the development of critical perspectives of science. Data were collected from 64, preservice elementary-level teachers, over the course of three semesters, using an open-ended survey. In these data, we identified three affordances and five hindrances that might influence our ability to foster critical perspectives. Among the affordances for fostering critical perspectives, we found that students (a) have a clear sense that cultural difference does not suggest inferiority, (b) have a clear sense that human bias influences science work, and (c) regard opinion as a factor shaping the work of scientists. Among the hindrances to fostering critical perspectives we found that students (d) regard Western science as superior to non-Western science, (e) do not have a strong working knowledge of the concept of “culture,” (f) regard science as an objective enterprise, (g) do not have a strong working knowledge of the concept of “objective,” and (h) have a one-sided view of scientific advancement. We conclude with suggestions for future research and for practice.
... A discussant was selected to lead the Q&A session following each presentation. The research I chose to present was a model for socially transformative education that we have applied in both science (Mutegi and Morton 2012) and mathematics (Pitts Bannister, Davis, Mutegi, Thompson, and Lewis 2017) instructional contexts. The discussion that followed the presentation was rich. ...
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In the midst of discussions about improving education, teacher education, equity, and diversity, little has been done to make pedagogy a central area of investigation. This article attempts to challenge notions about the intersection of culture and teaching that rely solely on microanalytic or macroanalytic perspectives. Rather, the article attempts to build on the work done in both of these areas and proposes a culturally relevant theory of education. By raising questions about the location of the researcher in pedagogical research, the article attempts to explicate the theoretical framework of the author in the nexus of collaborative and reflexive research. The pedagogical practices of eight exemplary teachers of African-American students serve as the investigative "site." Their practices and reflections on those practices provide a way to define and recognize culturally relevant pedagogy.
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