, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 559-592
Date: 30 Sep 2006

“They probably aren’t named Rachel”: Young children’s scientist identities as emergent multimodal narratives

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In this research we put forth a theoretical framework that explores the nature and value of multi-modal narratives as a tool for studying young children's conceptions of themselves as scientists as they exist in relation to scientists out in the world. This framework shapes and is shaped by an empirical study that took place within the context of a year-long program that engaged children in integrated science-literacy experiences around two units -- one on matter and one on a forest ecosystem. Thirty-six children were asked twice to draw and discuss two pictures of times they were scientists. We present our findings in two main ways. First, we use case studies of three students (one each in the first, second, and third grade) to show how the various constructs in the theoretical framework come together in the empirical study, and to explore in depth the various ideas that the children revealed. Second, we share a summative descriptive analysis of the differences between the pre and the post interviews. One of the important findings included the increase in the number of pictures from the pre-interview to the post interview in which children represented themselves as scientists (31 to 61). The children also showed themselves and scientists out in the world as engaging in practices with a range of materials, for a variety of purposes, and with particular kinds of epistemological commitments.

Eli Tucker-Raymond is a doctoral student in the Literacy, Language, and Culture program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He sees his evolving status as a social scientist fraught with similarities and differences between himself and social scientists “out in the world.” He is working toward a designated researcher and teacher identity that includes a focus on critical media literacy, collaborative action research, and developing praxis-oriented, critically-conscious learning communities in urban K-8 school settings. One evolutionary, co-constructed step toward that identity is this publication, his first.
Maria Varelas is Professor of Science Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research, teaching, and service are highly interrelated, focusing on classroom-based teaching and learning of science in urban settings with linguistically and socio-culturally diverse populations, collaborative teacher action research, discourse in science classrooms, integration of science and literacy, and science education reform in elementary school and college science classrooms. She currently co-leads with colleagues in Education, Natural Sciences, and Computer Science, three US NSF multi-year grants. Her research has appeared in a variety of journals and edited books.
Christine C. Pappas is Professor of Language and Literacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her teaching and research focus on classroom discourse, genre (especially informational and science ones), teacher inquiry, collaborative school-university action research (CSUAR), and the development of culturally responsive pedagogy. She is a co-author of the 4th edition of An Integrated Language Perspective in the Elementary School: An Action Approach, which emphasizes the use of language and literacy and other modes of meaning as tools for inquiry and learning across the curriculum. She has co-edited two volumes on a Spencer-sponsored CSUAR project, Working with Teacher Researchers in Urban Classrooms: Transforming Literacy Curriculum Genres and Teacher Inquiries in Literacy Teaching-Learning: Learning to Collaborate in Elementary Urban Classrooms, and her research has been published in book chapters and various journals.
An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11422-006-9037-6