Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 309–325 | Cite as

Framing equity through a closer examination of critical science agency

  • Kathleen SchenkelEmail author
  • Angela Calabrese Barton
  • Edna Tan
  • Christina Restrepo Nazar
  • Marcos D. González D. Flores
Original Paper


Science for all has been touted as the primary path to equity in science education in the USA. We argue that without attention to the power imbalances that both create and sustain dominant views of science education; such an approach is not equity-oriented but rather science colonizing. In this manuscript, we draw upon critical views of justice to argue that a more equity-oriented approach to science education focuses on critical science agency (CSA)—using science knowledge and other forms of distributed expertise to redress instances of injustice. Using critical participatory ethnography methodology with a social practice theory lens, we suggest that youth enact forms of CSA by directly incorporating their developing understandings of intersecting scales of injustices into their scientific knowledge and practice in an iterative and generative way. This process enabled the girls to reshape scientific knowledge and authority hierarchies in their science community. Finally, partly due to the disruption of dominant norms of science teaching and learning, the girls in our study utilized and shared expansive expertise enacting CSA. These findings advance our fields’ understanding of CSA, and its potential for pushing science education to be more justice-oriented.


Critical science agency Equity Justice Identity 


Ciencia para todos ha sido promovida como la vía principal hacia la equidad en la educación científica en los Estado Unidos. Sostemos que si no se atienden a las desigualdades de poder creadas y manteninas por las ideas dominantes de la educación científica; este planteamiento no está orientado a la equidad sino hacia la colonización científica. En este escrito recurrimos a perspectivas críticas de justicia para plantear que un acercamiento a la educación científica más orientado hacia la equidad se centra en la acción crítica científica (ACC) Utilizando conocimiento científico y otras formas de distribución de competencias para corregir casos de injusticia. Utilizando metodologías participativas y críticas de etnografía a traves del lente de la teoría de la práctica social, señalamos que la juventud llevan a cabo formas de ACC al incorporar directamente el entendimiento que desarrollan sobre las escalas transversales de injusticia a su conocimiento y práctica científica en forma reiterada y generativa. Este proceso habilita a las niñas para que den una nueva forma al conocimiento científico y las jerarquías de autoridad en su comunidad científica. Finalmente, y en parte por la disrupción de las normas de dominantes del aprendizaje y la enseñanza en ciencias, que la niñas en este estudio utilizaron y compartieron experiencias expansivas al llevar a cabo ACC. Estos hallazgos permiten que nuestro campo avance en el entendimiento de ACC y en su potencial para hacer que la educación científica sea más justa.



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under DRL 1502755.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen Schenkel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Angela Calabrese Barton
    • 1
  • Edna Tan
    • 2
  • Christina Restrepo Nazar
    • 3
  • Marcos D. González D. Flores
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Teacher EducationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Department of Teacher Education and Higher Education, 402 School of EducationUniversity of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA
  3. 3.Division of Curriculum & InstructionCalifornia State University, Los AngeleLos AngelesUSA

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