A new "image" of young adolescent science identity
Haddox, Anne Louise
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There are many studies about how prior knowledge and student interest affect student engagement in science. Do adolescent students understand what they already know and realize how they interact with science? This study explores how students view themselves as scientists, engage in science from their past and present, consider their hopes for future careers, and analyze their perceptions. All of this affects student science identity. This qualitative case study uses a cross-case analysis of auto-photography and Participant Photo Interviews (PPI) to understand student perceptions about science. Six adolescent participants took photographs in response to Photography Tasks that prompted them to photograph science in many aspects of their lives and photograph what may be their future careers. A constructivist epistemology was the framework for the participants to construct meanings through their interactions, engagements, and images they created within the context of science. Knowledge and meanings constructed during human interactions with the environment and the lens of adolescent science identity elucidated the results of how the participants viewed themselves as science people. The results demonstrated that those who were interested and capable in science tended to view themselves as a science person with a strong science identity. The reflections and stories about the photographic images gave a glimpse into the students’ science identities and let students realize that they do science every day, have been successful interacting with science in the past, and may want to consider a career in a science field. Teachers could use auto-photography and PPI to discover their students’ interests and identities in science. These activities would highlight the students’ prior knowledge and interest in science and would enable teachers to differentiate hands-on inquiry and discovery-type lessons. Those students with less interest in science would need additional engaging activities, peer collaboration, parental support, and innovative ways to study and remember the science content. Students with exceptional interest and experience with science as shown by their auto-photographs and PPIs would need the same support along with more challenging content and activities to enhance and enrich the knowledge they already possess. Additional research could explore student science identity and achievement.