Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 367-402

First online:

Preparing Science Teachers for Culturally Diverse Students: Developing Cultural Literacy Through Cultural Immersion, Cultural Translators and Communities of Practice

  • Pauline W. U. ChinnAffiliated withUniversity of Hawai'i at Manoa Email author 

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This three year study of P-12 professional development is grounded in sociocultural theories that hold that building knowledge and relationships among individuals from different cultural backgrounds entails joint activity toward common goals and cultural dialogues mediated by cultural translators. Sixty P-12 pre and in-service teachers in a year long interdisciplinary science curriculum course shared the goal of developing culturally relevant, standards-based science curricula for Native Hawai'ian students. Teachers and Native Hawai'ian instructors lived and worked together during a five day culture-science immersion in rural school and community sites and met several times at school, university, and community sites to build knowledge and share programs. Teachers were deeply moved by immersion experiences, learned to connect cultural understandings, e.g., a Hawai'ian sense of place and curriculum development, and highly valued collaborating with peers on curriculum development and implementation. The study finds that long term professional development providing situated learning through cultural immersion, cultural translators, and interdisciplinary instruction supports the establishment of communities of practice in which participants develop the cross-cultural knowledge and literacy needed for the development of locally relevant, place and standards-based curricula and pedagogy.


sense of place science teacher education native students cultural diversity