Conceptualizations of Context in Science Education Research: Implications for Equity

Part of the Cultural Studies of Science Education book series (CSSE, volume 5)


Context is commonly equated to the setting in which events take place. Researchers often capture this place in their descriptions of participants, physical surroundings, and artifacts relevant to the phenomenon under investigation. In this chapter, context is treated as part of the researched phenomena. The first treatment of context considers factors internal and external to the individual. This conceptualization of context is illustrated via research on middle school science teachers’ views about students in relation to their life experiences situated within the sociopolitical milieux of the societies in which they occurred. Fields, sites that are separated both temporally and spatially constitute the second conceptualization of context. Fields have resources that promote structure; agency within a field enables access to and appropriation of these resources. Social life within a field is mediated by a dialectical relationship between agency and structure and this second view of context examines this relationship by way of cogenerative dialogues (Roth et al., Learn Environ Res 5(1):1–28, 2002). Cogenerative dialogues (or cogens) are fields within which participants engage in critical reflection by making meaning of shared experiences through multiple understandings and opportunities.


Science Classroom African American Student Science Education Research Cogenerative Dialogue Develop Sense 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science EducationThe University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Science Education, Lehman CollegeCity University of New YorkBronxUSA

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