Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Family Science Practices under Construction: Creating Multiple Pathways for Participation
by Duckles, Joyce Mahler, Ph.D., University of Rochester, 2012, 416; 3508394
Abstract (Summary)

This study reaches into the home contexts and everyday practices of 17 families to explore how parents and their young children (ages 3–5) participate in the co-construction and enactment of family science practices. It is situated in current claims in our media and research that use measures of school science achievement as evidence of our children's failure in science. Adopting a social constructivist lens, I view science as a cultural and social practice that is constructed in the dialectic among the macro-level of cultural practices, the micro-level of parent-child interactions, and the broader contexts of familial ecologies. My questions focused on these multiple levels and their intersections as I seek to uncover what counts as science in families with young children, what science comes to look like in these homes, who can “do science,” and how parents access resources and supports. Ethnographic methods of inquiry and constructivist grounded theory methods of data collection and analysis provide the tools for uncovering local practices and local meanings as well as the cultural, institutional, and historical contexts shaping practices. This study draws from multiple data sources, including focus groups, semi-structured interviews, and videotaped home visits of families interacting with everyday objects framed as a “science activity.” The families in this study together tell a story that challenges dominant cultural views and reframes science as variable ways of knowing and doing, as practices and a culture that are “under construction.” Parents and children demonstrate how contested, hybrid, and school science spaces can co-exist in homes, how different spaces afford variable roles and structures of and for participation, how competency and legitimate participation comes to be locally defined, and how multiple pathways to engagement in science can be simultaneously created. I challenge claims that our children are failing at science and propose that we can learn from families the value of creating an ensemble of spaces and multiple pathways for successful engagement with science for young children and adults. In the final section, I explore some of the implications these findings have for parents, for educators, for researchers, and for policymakers.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: French, Lucia
Commitee: Chin, Nancy, Larson, Joanne
School: University of Rochester
Department: Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Early childhood education, Educational psychology, Science education
Keywords: Developmental pathways, Family practices, Human development, Science as a social practice
Publication Number: 3508394
ISBN: 978-1-267-34109-9
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