ERIC Number: EJ1130857
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Mar
Abstractor: As Provided
High School Biology Evolution Learning Experiences in a Rural Context: A Case of and for Cultural Border Crossing
Borgerding, Lisa A.
Cultural Studies of Science Education, v12 n1 p53-79 Mar 2017
Although the concept of "rural" is difficult to define, rural science education provides the possibility for learning centered upon a strong connection to the local community. Rural American adolescents tend to be more religious than their urban counterparts and less accepting of evolution than their non-rural peers. Because the status and perception of evolutionary theory may be very different within the students' lifeworlds and the subcultures of the science classroom and science itself, a cultural border crossing metaphor can be applied to evolution teaching and learning. This study examines how a teacher may serve as a cultural border crossing tour guide for students at a rural high school as they explore the concept of biological evolution in their high school biology class. Data collection entailed two formal teacher interviews, field note observations of two biology class periods each day for 16 days during the Evolution unit, individual interviews with 14 students, student evolution acceptance surveys, student evolution content tests, and classroom artifacts. The major findings center upon three themes regarding how this teacher and these students had largely positive evolution learning experiences even as some students continued to reject evolution. First, the teacher strategically positioned himself in two ways: using his unique "local" trusted position in the community and school and taking a position in which he did not personally represent science by instead consistently teaching evolution "according to scientists." Second, his instruction honored local "rural" funds of knowledge with respect to local knowledge of nature and by treating students' religious knowledge as a form of local expertise about one set of answers to questions also addressed by evolution. Third, the teacher served as a border crossing "tour guide" by helping students identify how the culture of science and the culture of their lifeworlds may differ with respect to evolutionary theory. Students negotiated the cultural borders for learning evolution in several ways, and different types of border crossings are described. The students respected the teacher's apparent neutrality, sensitivity toward multiple positions, explicit attention to religion/evolution, and transparency of purposes for teaching evolution. These findings add to the current literature on rural science education by highlighting local funds of knowledge for evolution learning and how rural teachers may help students navigate seemingly hazardous scientific topics. The study's findings also add to the current evolution education literature by examining how students' religious perspectives may be respected as a form of expertise about questions of origins by allowing students to examine similarities and differences between scientific and religious approaches to questions of biological origins and change.
Descriptors: Biology, Secondary School Science, Science Instruction, Rural Schools, High School Students, Adolescents, Religion, Religious Factors, Evolution, Scientific Concepts, Secondary School Teachers, Interviews, Observation, Student Attitudes, Teaching Methods, Teacher Role, Cultural Influences
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Secondary Education; High Schools
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A