Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Urban high school students' talk about HIV/AIDS decision-making: Learning, identities, and the influence of school
by Brotman, Jennie Suzanne, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2009, 274; 3373708
Abstract (Summary)

Science education has enormous potential to influence students as they make decisions about controversial topics that impact themselves and the world around them; however, research shows that students often do not apply science or school learning to their real-life choices. In order to bridge this frequent gap between the school curriculum and students' decisions, the purpose of this dissertation is to contribute to a more complex understanding of high school students' decision-making related to HIV/AIDS, a controversial science topic, through analysis of their talk about this topic. The study uses theoretical lenses including situated cognition, identities, and socio-ecological models of decision-making, combined with qualitative, ethnographic research methods including focus groups, interviews, and participant observation involving 20 12th grade students attending a health-focused New York City public school.

The study describes how students learn about HIV/AIDS across many contexts of their lives in different ways, including and beyond school settings. It further illustrates how students' talk about decision-making is connected to identities, which are formed by factors in students' lives such as school, family, relationships, and religion, and by societal discourses on topics such as gender, individual responsibility, and morality. Finally, the study finds that school plays a powerful role in influencing students' thinking about decision-making by influencing identity formation, facilitated by teacher relationships as well as aspects of school culture and curriculum that extend beyond particular classrooms.

Implications for research, curriculum, and teaching related to HIV/AIDS and other controversial science topics are offered. It is suggested that researchers investigate students' decision-making about HIV/AIDS as well as other controversial science topics through the lenses of identities and socio-ecological theory; that teachers and curriculum developers find ways to elicit students' identities and learning across multiple contexts; that energy is put into school culture and teacher relationships in addition to classroom curriculum; and that science educators incorporate identities and life experiences into curriculum about controversial science topics, as a step towards more effectively influencing students' decisions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mensah, Felicia M. Moore
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Health education, Science education, Curriculum development
Keywords: AIDS, Decision-making, HIV/AIDS education, Health education, High school, Qualitative, Science education, Sex education, Socioscientific issues
Publication Number: 3373708
ISBN: 9781109344929
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