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Chemistry inside an epistemological community box! Discursive exclusions and inclusions in Swedish National tests in Chemistry

Abstract

This study examined the Swedish national tests in chemistry for implicit and explicit values. The chemistry subject is understudied compared to biology and physics and students view chemistry as their least interesting science subject. The Swedish national science assessments aim to support equitable and fair evaluation of students, to concretize the goals in the chemistry syllabus and to increase student achievement. Discourse and multimodal analyses, based on feminist and critical didactic theories, were used to examine the test’s norms and values. The results revealed that the chemistry discourse presented in the tests showed a traditional view of science from the topics discussed (for example, oil and metal), in the way women, men and youth are portrayed, and how their science interests are highlighted or neglected. An elitist view of science emerges from the test, with distinct gender and age biases. Students could interpret these biases as a message that only “the right type” of person may come into the chemistry epistemological community, that is, into this special sociocultural group that harbours a common view about this knowledge. This perspective may have an impact on students’ achievement and thereby prevent support for an equitable and fair evaluation. Understanding the underlying evaluative meanings that come with science teaching is a question of democracy since it may affect students’ feelings of inclusion or exclusion. The norms and values harboured in the tests will also affect teaching since the teachers are given examples of how the goals in the syllabus can be concretized.

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Correspondence to Marie Ståhl.

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Lead Editor: K. Scantlebury.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 2 Discourse analyses

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Ståhl, M., Hussénius, A. Chemistry inside an epistemological community box! Discursive exclusions and inclusions in Swedish National tests in Chemistry. Cult Stud of Sci Educ 12, 395–423 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-016-9730-z

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Keywords

  • Chemistry national tests
  • Discourse analysis
  • Norms and values
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Chemistry epistemological community