Exploring the Potential of Using Explicit Reflective Instruction through Contextualized and Decontextualized Approaches to Teach First-Grade African American Girls the Practices of Science

Gayle A. Buck, Valarie L. Akerson, Cassie F. Quigley, Ingrid S. Weiland


Abstract: Contemporary science education policy documents call for curriculum and pedagogy that lead to students’ active engagement, over multiple years of school, in scientific practices. This participatory action research study answered the question, “How can we successfully put twenty-three first-grade African American girls attending a gender school in an impoverished school district on the path to learning the practices of scientists”. The Young Children’s Views of Science (YCVOS) (Lederman, 2009) was used to interview these first-graders pre-, mid- and post-instruction during an instructional unit designed in response to many of the pedagogical strategies research has demonstrated to be effective in other contexts; explicit reflective instruction utilizing contextualized and decontextualized activities. Classroom observations, copies of student work and planning documents were also collected and analyzed. The cumulative findings indicated that the decontextualized aspects of our science initiative had positive impacts on the girls’ understandings of observation and inference while the contextualized aspects of instruction supported an increase in their understandings of empirical evidence.  The contextualized aspect of instruction appeared to hinder our efforts in regards to observation and inference. The results extend current understandings of the potential of using these approaches to teach first-grade African American girls the practices of science by supporting some of the aspects of these approaches and raising questions in regard to others.


early childhood education, gender, scientific practices, nature of science

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