, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 219-252
Date: 08 Jun 2006

Aligning the Cultures of Teaching and Learning Science in Urban High Schools

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Abstract

This paper analyzes teaching and learning in urban science classrooms in which most of the students are African American and from low-income homes. Their teachers are also racial minorities and yet they struggle to teach successfully across cultural boundaries. The first set of case studies involves a male teacher who taught in a high-energy way that produced structures for students to get involved in the doing of science. His verbal fluency and expressive individualism, involving emphatic gestures, rhythmic use of his body, and voice intonation maintained student participation. A second case study examines successful interactions among the students, involving an argument over competing models for chemical valence. Whereas the students interacted successfully, the teacher was frequently out of synchrony in terms of amplitude, pitch, and non-verbal actions. The key implication is the necessity for teachers and students to learn how to interact successfully in ways that produce positive emotional energy, a sense of belonging to the class, and a commitment to shared responsibility for one another's participation. Aligning the cultures of teaching and learning offers a possibility that fluent interactions will occur, afford success, and facilitate the learning of science.