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Theses Doctoral

A Longitudinal Study of Implementing Reality Pedagogy in an Urban Science Classroom: Effects, Challenges, and Recommendations for Science Teaching and Learning

Borges, Sheila Ivelisse

Statistics indicate that students who reside in forgotten places do not engage in science-related careers. This is problematic because we are not tapping into diverse talent that could very well make scientific strides and because there is a moral obligation for equity as discussed in Science for all (AAAS, 1989). Research suggests that one of the reasons for this disparity is that students feel alienated from science early on in their K-12 education due to their inability to connect culturally with their teachers (Tobin, 2001). Urban students share an urban culture, a way of knowing and being that is separate from that of the majority of the teacher workforce whom have not experienced the nuances of urban culture. These teachers have challenges when teaching in urban classrooms and have a myriad of difficulties such as classroom management, limited access to experienced science colleagues and limited resources to teach effectively. This leads them to leaving the teaching profession affecting already high teacher attrition rates in urban areas (Ingersol, 2001). In order to address these issues a culturally relevant pedagogy, called reality pedagogy (Emdin, 2011), was implemented in an urban science classroom using a bricolage (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005) of different theories such as social capital (Bourdieu, 1986) and critical race theory (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995), along with reality pedagogy to construct a qualitative sociocultural lens. Reality pedagogy has five tools, which are cogenerative dialogues, coteaching, cosmopolitanism, context, and content.
In this longitudinal critical ethnography a science teacher in an alternative teaching certification program was supported for two years as she implemented the tools of reality pedagogy with her urban students. Findings revealed that the science teacher enacted four racial microaggressions against her students, which negatively affected the teacher-student relationship and science teaching and learning. As the tools of reality pedagogy were implemented the teacher-student relationship in the science classroom changed from negative to positive. This then impacted the teachers’ decision whether to stay in the teaching profession. Where initially she wanted to leave teaching due to the disconnect with her culturally diverse urban students she decided to stay teaching in urban schools as a consequence of implementing reality pedagogy. In addition, students together with their science teacher were able to redefine the traditional science curriculum by including their community health and science concerns. This led to an increase in students’ interest in school science because their urban science interests were incorporated in the science curriculum. Moreover, in order to inform other science teacher educators and teachers on how to implement reality pedagogy this study describes how it was implemented, the challenges that were encountered, and recommendations of an effective sequence of the tools.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Emdin, Christopher
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 6, 2016