Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 329–338 | Cite as

A cultural historical theoretical perspective of discourse and design in the science classroom

  • Megan AdamsEmail author


Flavio Azevedo, Peggy Martalock and Tugba Keser have initiated an important conversation in science education as they use sociocultural theory to introduce design based scenarios into the science classroom. This response seeks to expand Azevedo, Martalock and Keser’s article The discourse of design-based science classroom activities by using a specific perspective within a sociocultural framework. Through using a cultural historical (Vygotsky in The history and development of higher mental functions, Plenum Press, New York, 1987) reading of design based activity and discourse in the science classroom, it is proposed that learning should be an integral part of these processes. Therefore, everyday and scientific concepts are explained and expanded in relation to Inventing Graphing and discourse presented in Azevedo, Martalock and Keser’s article. This response reports on the importance of teacher’s being explicit in relation to connecting everyday and scientific concepts alongside design based activity and related science concepts when teaching students. It is argued that explicit teaching of concepts should be instigated prior to analysis of discourse in the science classroom as it is only with experience and understanding these processes that students have the resources to call upon to argue like practicing scientists.


Everyday and scientific concepts Discourse Design based Sociocultural Cultural historical theory 



I wish to acknowledge with thanks the help and guidance of Professor Marilyn Fleer and the monthly Everyday and Scientific Concept reading group conversations held by the PhD Cultural Historical Community.


  1. Apedoe, X.S., & Schunn, C.D. (2013). Strategies for success: Uncovering what makes students successful in design and learning. Instructional Science, 41(4), 773–791. doi: 10.1007/s11251-012-9251-4.
  2. Engeström, Y., & Middleton, D. (2006). Cognition and communication at work (pp. 61–95). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Fleer, M. (2008). A cultural-historical reading of “Culturally Sensitive Schooling”: Thinking beyond a constructivist view of science learning. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 3, 781–786. doi: 10.1007/s11422-008-9114-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fleer, M. (2011). ‘Conceptual play’: Foregrounding imagination and cognition during concept formation in early years education. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 12, 224–240. doi: 10.2304/ciec.2011.12.3.224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fleer, M., & Robbins, J. (2003). “Hit and run research” with “hit and miss” results in early childhood science education. Research in Science Education, 33, 405–432. doi: 10.1023/B:RISE.0000005249.45909.93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gee, J. (1991). Socio-cultural approaches to literacy (literacies). Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 12, 31–48. doi: 10.1017/S0267190500002130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gee, J. (2004). Discourse analysis: What makes it critical. In R. Rogers (Ed.), An introduction to critical discourse analysis in education (pp. 19–50). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  8. Goodwin, C., & Goodwin, M. H. (1998). Seeing as situated activity: Formulating planes. In Y. Engeström & D. Middleton (Eds.), Cognition and communication at work (pp. 61–95). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Hedegaard, M. (2002). Learning and child development: A cultural-historical study. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Hedegaard, M., & Chaiklin, S. (2005). A cultural historical approach: radical-local teaching and learning. Denmark: Aarhus University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Kaptelinin, V. (2005). The object of activity: Making sense of the sense-maker. Mind, Culture and Activity, 12, 4–18. doi: 10.1207/s15327884mca1201_2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kozulin, A. (1986). The concept of activity in Soviet psychology Vygotsky, his disciples and critics. American Psychologist, 41, 264–274. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.41.3.264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Leontiev, A. N. (1978). Activity, consciousness, and personality. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. (Original work published 1975).Google Scholar
  15. McNeill, K. L., & Pimentel, D. S. (2009). Scientific discourse in three urban classrooms: The role of the teacher in engaging high school students in argumentation. Science Education, 10, 203–229. doi: 10.1002/sce.20364.Google Scholar
  16. Rogoff, B. (1995). Observing sociocultural activity on three planes: Participatory appropriation, guided participation, and apprenticeship. In J. V. Wertsch, P. del Rio, & A. Alvarez (Eds.), Sociocultural studies of mind (pp. 139–163). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Roth, W. M. (2000). Autobiography and science education: An introduction. Research in Science Education, 30, 1–12. doi: 10.1007/BF02461649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Roth, W. M. (2012). Science of learning is learning of science: Why we need a dialectical approach to science education research. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 7, 255–277. doi: 10.1007/s11422-012-9390-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sherin, B. (2000). How students invent representations of motion: A genetic account. Journal of Mathematical Behaviour, 19, 399–441. doi: 10.1016/S0732-3123(01)00052-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Skamp, K., Boyes, E., & Stanisstreet, M. (2004). Students’ ideas and attitudes about air quality. Research in Science Education, 34, 313–342. doi: 10.1023/B:RISE.0000044643.24770.5c.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). Thinking and speech. In R. W. Rieber, & A. S. Carton (Eds.) The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky, Vol. (4) The history and development of higher mental functions (N. Minick, Trans.). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Monash UniversityFrankstonAustralia

Personalised recommendations