Creating a virtual community of practice to investigate legitimate peripheral participation by African American middle school girls in science activities
Leslie D. Edwards, University of Colorado at Boulder, United States
University of Colorado at Boulder . Awarded
How do teenage girls develop an interest in science? What kinds of opportunities can science teachers present to female students that support their engagement with learning science?
I studied one aspect of this issue by focusing on ways students could use science to enhance or gain identities that they (probably) already valued. To do that I created technology-rich activities and experiences for an after school class in science and technology for middle school girls who lived in a low socio-economic urban neighborhood. These activities and experiences were designed to create a virtual community of practice whose members used science in diverse ways. Student interest was made evident in their responses to the activities. Four conclusions emerged. (1) Opportunities to learn about the lives and work of admired African American business women interested students in learning by linking it to their middle-class aspirations and their interest in things that money and status can buy. (2) Opportunities to learn about the lives and work of African American women experts in science in a classroom context where students then practiced similar kinds of actual scientific tasks engaged students in relations of legitimate peripheral participation in a virtual and diverse community of practice focused on science which was created in the after-school classes. (3) Opportunities where students used science to show off for family, friends, and supporters of the after-school program, identities they valued, interested them enough that they engaged in long-term science and technology projects that required lots of revisions. (4) In response to the opportunities presented, new and enhanced identities developed around becoming a better student or becoming some kind of scientist.
Edwards, L.D. Creating a virtual community of practice to investigate legitimate peripheral participation by African American middle school girls in science activities. Ph.D. thesis, University of Colorado at Boulder.
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