Activity, Subjectification, and Personality: Science Education from a Diversity-of-Life Perspective
Science education research tends to be concerned with phenomena that appear on its inside – e.g., inside science classrooms, labs, museums, clubs – and generally forgets that we structure our everyday lives in terms of the activities that we engage in and the hierarchical relations between the object/motives that orient each of these activities. But life is diverse, and science education is only a minor part in the everyday life of a person. Rather than thinking about learning through the narrow perspective of the science curriculum, I suggest we need to think it from a diversity-of-life perspective. It is precisely this diversity of life that is at the source of diversity science educators often write about. In this chapter, I articulate a cultural-historical activity theoretic perspective that contextualizes science and science education in the everyday life of a person more generally. I show how within and across the diverse activities, which are characterized by specific object/motives that they are oriented to, we become subjects (a process that I denote by the term subjectification) and persons simultaneously. Moving across multiple activities leads each individual to develop of a hierarchy of collective object/motives. The hierarchy of object/motives developing as a result of our continual movement across the diverse activities of our daily lives shapes a continual developmental process that I term personality. The individual personality, therefore, consists of an ensemble of collective objects/motives that are arranged in a singular hierarchy. To concretize the theoretical aspects of this chapter, I draw on materials from the ten ethnographic studies in which my students and I have followed individuals over periods of 3–10 years within and outside of science.
KeywordsScience Education Fecal Coliform Care Assistant Science Identity Personal Trainer
This research was supported by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I am grateful to Pei-Ling Hsu, who, supported through these grants, collected the data as part of her dissertation and postdoctoral work in my laboratory. I thank the participants, who have agreed to be part of our research program over such a long period of time.
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