Instruction In Nature Of Science And Inquiry With Underrepresented Students: Being Explicit About Science

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This dissertation presents analyses of an instructional approach combining inquiry-based science teaching with instructionally congruent practice and explicit instruction in nature of science (NOS) through the context of the Fossil Finders curriculum unit in an urban fifth grade classroom serving underrepresented and English language learning (ELL) students. I draw on sociocultural theories of learning and identity to consider how this instructional approach may engage students in science learning and facilitate negotiation of understandings about science. A key argument posed is that instructional approaches that engage students in the activities of science, through authentic investigation, provide opportunities for students to participate in the activities of science and interact with the scientific community of practice. Further, I argue that integrating instructionally congruent practice and explicit instruction in NOS with inquiry-based instruction increases the accessibility of science by taking cultural and linguistic differences of both students and science into account. The added component of explicit instruction in NOS as a multicultural approach differentiates this research from other studies focused on science instruction for underrepresented students. Primary data sources include (a) video and fieldnotes of 13 instruction days in the classroom, (b) interviews with five focus students and their parents, (c) content- matter pre-post assessments, inclusive of questions focused on views about NOS, and (d) student work samples. Together, these data illustrate how the teacher implemented the combined instructional approach, and how the students responded to this form of instruction. I illustrate how a framework combining these three approaches is implemented by a teacher with limited background in science, thereby exposing the potential for this instructional approach to be replicated. Results indicate student content-matter learning and how students' views about science are reshaped from mainstream cultural views about science to more informed understandings through participating in the data collection phases of scientific research in the context of their classroom. These findings are compelling given the growing number of students from backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented in the sciences in schools and the need to provide these students with culturally relevant instructional approaches.

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