Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 941–965

Tempered radicals: elementary teachers’ narratives of teaching science within and against prevailing meanings of schooling

  • Heidi B. Carlone
  • Julie Haun-Frank
  • Sue C. Kimmel

DOI: 10.1007/s11422-010-9282-6

Cite this article as:
Carlone, H.B., Haun-Frank, J. & Kimmel, S.C. Cult Stud of Sci Educ (2010) 5: 941. doi:10.1007/s11422-010-9282-6


Science educators and researchers have bemoaned the lack of reform-based science in elementary schools and focused on teachers’ difficulties (i.e., lack of knowledge, interest, experience) in enacting quality science pedagogy. We present compelling evidence that challenges assumptions about science education reform and draw on a practice theory perspective to examine the stories, commitments and identities of thirteen teachers, whose beliefs and practices aligned with those promoted by science education reform documents. Through ethnographic interviews, we learned about these teachers’ critical science experiences, perceived science teacher identities, and their goals and commitments. Their stories highlight institutional and sociohistorical difficulties of enacting reform-based science, the many biases, contradictions, and unintended consequences prevalent in educational policy and practice today, and emphasize how easily the status quo can get reproduced. These teachers had to work as ‘tempered radicals’, ‘working the system’ to teach in ways that were consistent with reform-based science.


Science education reform Science teaching Discourse Institutional meanings Elementary science 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heidi B. Carlone
    • 1
  • Julie Haun-Frank
    • 2
  • Sue C. Kimmel
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Teacher Education and Higher EducationThe University of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA
  2. 2.Department of STEM Education and Professional StudiesOld Dominion University, Darden College of EducationNorfolkUSA
  3. 3.Library Science, Department of Teaching and LearningOld Dominion University, Darden College of EducationNorfolkUSA