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Sharing lived experience: How upper secondary school chemistry teachers and students use narratives to make chemistry more meaningful
Stockholm University, The Stockholm Institute of Education, Department of Curriculum Studies and Communication(LHS).
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation concerns the place of teachers’ and students’ narratives in making school chemistry more meaningful to students. The material was collected at upper secondary school courses and consists of interviews with six experienced chemistry teachers, five adult students attending evening classes and six younger students. The methodological and theoretical approach is mainly inspired by John Dewey’s (1925, 1938) notion of continuity and by narrative inquiry as formulated by Clandinin & Connelly (2000). In defining narratives as a way of knowing, Bruner’s (1996, 2002) distinction between paradigmatic and narrative cognition is used, as well as his ideas about the past, the present and the possible.

The findings show how teachers use narratives from their own lived experience as well as from other people’s lives in order to make chemistry more meaningful. Moreover, they use a narrative format to make their scientific explanations meaningful. Students use narratives or stories connected to their own lived experience to make sense of chemistry. These results show how chemistry can be made part of a meaningful context through sharing lived experience by means of storytelling. Narratives are used to make everyday life and chemistry class experiences continuous in the sense suggested by Dewey (1938). In accordance with his thoughts on experience, narratives are of help in the science classroom not only in making science more relevant and interesting, but also easier to understand. In the dissertation numerous examples of such stories are given and their role in learning chemistry is discussed.

The stories of the teachers and students in the study are retold and analysed according to additional analytic tools in order to further document their role in teaching chemistry. It is argued that the collected narratives constitute an ingredient in teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge, PCK, according to Shulman (1986). How they can be used in different content areas of science and chemistry is discussed. The content of the narratives is also related to the Swedish curriculum, to the findings of the ROSE project and to Roberts’s (1982) knowledge emphases. The content analyses show that narratives make chemistry in class pluralistic in allowing the lived experiences of teachers and students to interact with the scientific facts.

The final discussion concerning narrative inquiry is inspired by what Clandinin & Connelly (2000) wrote about “clashes at the boundaries”. The specific boundary in this dissertation is situated between canonical science teaching methods on the one hand and the use of narratives in teaching and narrative inquiry as research method on the other hand. Reductionism alone cannot explain nature and the complexity of life (Dewey 1925, 1938 and Midgley 2004), and the results of this dissertation show that narratives are used by both students and teachers in order to make sense of chemistry. Narratives constitute a way to make the reductionist knowing of science part of a more meaningful whole in accordance with Dewey’s holistic ideas about education.

The results of this study suggest that teaching narratives can – and should – be used in science as a complement to other, more scientifically oriented educational methods. Thus, it supports many of the efforts made within context-based approaches, such as Case Studies, LCP (Large Context Problems), PBL (Problem-Based Learning), the Salter’s method and the Storyline method. Further implications of the results for teaching, learning, teacher education and research are explored.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm Institute of Education Press , 2006. , 280 p.
Studies in educational sciences, ISSN 1400-478X ; 90
Keyword [en]
Chemistry, cognition, Dewey, knowledge emphases, learning, meaning-making, narrative, narrative inquiry, pedagogical content knowledge, post-modernity, pragmatism, science education, teaching, the content of science
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1285ISBN: 139176566176OAI: diva2:189787
Public defence
2006-10-20, Konradsbergsaulan, Lärarhögskolan, hus K, Rålambsvägen 24-30, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2006-09-28 Created: 2006-09-28Bibliographically approved

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