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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ethical and science understandings in school science : a conceptual framework of classroom practices and understandings Rogers, Larson


The principal contribution of the study is a conceptual account of classroom activities in school science, which incorporates both ethical and conventional science understandings within a single conceptual framework. In order to illustrate and explore the strengths and limitations of the conceptual framework developed, an exploratory case study involving 7 science classes was conducted at 2 schools. The 'classroom practices and understandings' conceptual framework presents a novel approach for understanding activities of students and teachers in the science classroom. According to this framework 'understanding' is a grasp of inferential connections as part of either practical or cognitive types of activity, whereas a 'practice' is a set of activities organized by understandings, rules and characteristic aims, emotions, and projects. On this basis the grounds for a given understanding are described in terms of a unifying structure for both ethical and science understandings. In both cases 'authority in understanding' refers to the specific sources of authority for a given understanding, which may include authoritative individuals in addition to more conventional grounds such as reasons or evidence. Finally, 'richness' of understanding refers to the quality of such connections to sources of authority in understanding, and is thus is a measure of the strength of understanding generally. Classroom lessons developed for the exploratory case study focused on ethical questions of sustainability. These were implemented in the science classroom at two research sites, with the researcher acting as guest teacher. One site focused on study of ecology in grade 11; the other site focused on study of genetics in grade 10. At both sites student interviews were conducted to supplement the findings of the classroom-teaching component. The findings support the integrity of the conceptual framework, while highlighting significant challenges for seeking to make explicit the sources of authority in science students' ethical understandings. Building from the conceptual framework and cases studies, a number of further directions for empirical and theoretical research are suggested.

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