, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 227-245

Meaning making in a community of learners: Struggles and possibilities in an urban science class

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Abstract

In this study, we embark on an exploration and analysis of a community of learners of science in a classroom of one of the authors (Barbara Luster)—a group of Year 8 African American girls and boys in an urban, inner-city school. This study is a collaborative action research project that examines closely the practice of teaching and learning science within a socio-cultural perspective that Barbara has espoused and brought to her classroom. We study the two dimensions of a community of learners—social-organisational, and intellectual-thematic—and how each evolved and influenced the other. As we explore these dimensions we pay particular attention to the gender of the students, looking for similarities and differences between boys and girls in the patterns that emerge. Our findings indicate that in Barbara's class the relative success of the learning community in terms of the social-organisational dimension was not accompanied by a relative success in the intellectual-thematic dimension. Barbara and her students, for the most part, succeeded in developing a community of people coming together to ask questions, offer their thinking, and respectfully sometimes build on each other's contributions and sometimes disagree with each other. However, Barbara and her students did not quite succeed in developing shared understandings, and we discuss the reasons for this.