Equity and what secondary science teachers bring to the classroom
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The demographics of people working in science-based careers do not match the demographics of the larger society. In particular, people who self-identify as Hispanic are underrepresented among working scientists. One reason may be the influence of formal schooling and more specifically, the behaviors of teachers in secondary science classrooms. This study looks at the practices of eight secondary science teachers at two schools at which 62% of the enrolled students declare their ethnicity as Hispanic. All of the teachers have at least three years of experience. Through interviews with the teachers, classroom observation, and interviews with other faculty, this research elucidates typical behaviors and attitudes surrounding teaching science in these settings. In spite of having a deficit view of their students, they all express interest in and concern about the students they teach. Their characterizations of teaching practices and classroom behaviors do not incorporate strategies designed to promote content learning through culturally relevant curriculum. Instead, they use mainstream-situated approaches that develop science content knowledge, vocabulary, procedures, and skills targeted toward high achievement on state and district standardized tests leading toward graduation or success in college. These approaches are consistent with a view of equity that increases the participation of underrepresented groups in science based careers in that it gives students the skills and knowledge they will need in order to successfully pursue these careers. Additionally, they behave in ways that are consistent with equitable strategies such as using inquiry based teaching, serving as role models, and providing a structured learning environment. This research informs the literature base for instructional systems designers by identifying what that teachers situated in culturally diverse classrooms bring to professional development programs targeted toward making secondary science teaching more equitable.