Re-emphasizing the Roles of “Social” and “Cultural” in Science Education

At the 2024 NARST International Conference, Dr. David Steele engaged workshop participants in exploring avenues of science teaching and learning through a sociocultural perspective, particularly we examined ways in which science teacher educators and science teachers could do so by engaging students through two distinct, but slightly overlapping frameworks: justice-centered science pedagogy and socio-scientific issues. These frameworks explicitly require teachers and students to recognize schools as sociocultural institutions for democracy, yet susceptible to reinscribing societal inequities, acting more as agents of social replication than of mobility. Meanwhile, research shows that emphasizing embedding cultural perspectives in classrooms can transform learning experiences to make them more conducive to social mobility and empowerment. Related to science teaching and learning, the National Research Council Framework underscores that science learning can be understood as a cultural accomplishment. Unfortunately, students from non-dominant communities often face opportunity gaps in their science education experience due to pervasive deficit orientations in both educators and policymakers. To counter this, we want to expand upon contemporary and future approaches that position sociocultural factors and epistemological beliefs about science as powerful and inextricable tools that engage students in socioscientific learning, provide students with opportunities to build literacies necessary for seeing and solving complex, wicked problems. This workshop, therefore, serves as a reminder that science education best serves our students and communities when educators re-emphasize the social and cultural factors that impact the doing and learning of science. These inclusive approaches reposition youth as necessary agents in science learning, and center the social and cultural assets they bring to learning environments and communities.

Link to Workshop Presentation