One leopard gecko, two warrior cats, and three fiddler crabs : a study of the science identity work of fifth-graders around the science classroom




Mann, Michele Johnson

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This research contributes to the understanding of identity by investigating the processes and dynamics of students’ science identity work. Specifically, my analysis is concerned with the identity work that students perform as they craft desired and projected identities in and around science topics. I collected data when observing the students, examining and recording their artifacts, interviewing the students (both formally and informally), and interviewing their teachers and parents. I focused on four episodes of identity work of fifth graders. One episode is about a student group I call “the Ringo Keepers.” The second episode is about two girls doing imaginary play using books they are reading as their guide. The third episode is about a student working on an identity of being helpful using science content. The final episode is about students developing a process to catch fiddler crabs. One main conclusion from this research is that science identity work happened adjacent to other identity work the students were doing. This way of looking at science identity work— identity work happening as an unexpected result of other work or play done by the students—is unique. Secondly, research on pretend play happening in fifth-grade students while at school is either limited or does not exist, especially on imaginary play with identity work. One last interesting finding is that identity work can happen collectively, yet at the same time is unique for each individual. While the group is working as one unit, because each individual is an individual with their own unique history, their identity work has a group component and an individual component. From these findings, I would like to further investigate how the organization of a school can support or hinder science identity work in and around the science classroom.


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