Social Positioning, Language and Science Identity
Analyzing the nexus between advantaged social positioning and science identity development among culturally and linguistically diverse learners
To address the complex issues of equity in STEM fields, we focus our research on power related issues such as culture, identity, access and availability to robust learning, as well as the roles, resources, and positions diverse learners, particularly the ones from historically non-doniminat communities, are given in their learning experiences. Questions such as what is the culture of science learning? How does it shape students developing and emergent identities? How do diverse children/youth get recognized as science people, and how do these processes play themselves out in their educational trajectories as identifications or dis/identification with STEM education and discipline? These are some of the questions that our research groups tackles with. To avoid homogenizing and essentializing accounts of diverse learners, we examine inclusiveness and equity in moment to moment learning interactions between learners, including the access and availability to robust tools, practices, and tasks, as well as positions and identities students are ascribed to in their learning experiences. Our goal is to develop curricular and pedagogical approaches that are both culturally relevant and culturally sustaining for diverse learners.
We are currently conducting a research by examining the empirical connection between positive language and science identity development among culturally and linguistically diverse learners such as emergent bilingual students (also known as English language learners). While various fields conceptualize identity differently, in my research group, we approach identity as a fluid, multidimensional construct enmeshed in systems of power that shape students’ access to robust forms of learning. Unlike psychological accounts of underrepresentation in STEM fields, our research tackles learning as an episto-ontological process (see Kayumova et al. 2018) that emerges in the intersection of sustained participation and identification with various forms, tools, tasks, roles, and practices enacted in spaces of learning over time. In this particular research, we draw on social positioning theory to study the role of strength and resource based positioning of emergent bilingual students. We argue that positioning culturally and linguistically diverse learners, their families, communities and their local knowledge skills, culture and language repertoires, ways of being and knowing, as legitimate and valid resources not only helps to recruit them as strengths during learning processes, but also support long term positive academic identity trajectories. Further, getting away from deficit-based viewpoints might also help teachers and schools to view diverse linguistic, cultural, epistemic repertoires as a valuable, versatile asset, and cornerstone of creative cognitive potential. Our partnerships with schools, teachers, students, families, and local community members, along with a collaboration with STEM research community chiefly informs our design, research, and implementation.
Funding and Acknowledgment: The National Science Foundation
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No.####. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.