Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research
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Linking culturally responsive teaching, learning and assessment to enhance the engagement of diverse students in primary science classroom

Research Team: Bronwen Cowie, Kathrin Otrel-Cass, Ted Glynn and Helena Kara with three teachers from Arataki Primary School, Tauranga; Vardon Primary School, Hamilton and Peachgrove Intermediate School, Hamilton.

Project Dates: 2009 - 2011

This Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) study explores synergies between current understandings of culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment for learning in primary science classes with a high proportion of Māori students. The project is developing evidence of how teachers might access and support students to bring the 'funds of knowledge' they have developed within the families and whanau into the classroom as a resource for their science learning.

Data are being collected via video recording of classroom interactions, photographs of students at work and of student work and audio taping of conversations to describe and explain how teachers and students and, on occasion family and wider community members are talking and thinking about science ideas. The project is generating a rich set of data that include student drawings, student written work, website contributions and student presentations to peers.

Research questions

  1. What does it look, sound and feel like when a teacher establishes a productive learning environment for students from diverse backgrounds, cultures and experiences to engage in science?
  2. When culturally responsive pedagogies are employed in science learning, what are the tensions and dilemmas that arise for students and teachers? How do they manage these dilemmas?
  3. How do students take up, adapt and deploy different modes and material resources to make and communicate meaning?

Project outputs

Cowie, B., Otrel-Cass, K., Glynn, T., & Kara, H., with Anderson, M., Doyle, J., Parkinson, A., & Te Kiri, C. (2011). Culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment in primary science classrooms: Whakamana tamariki. Summary Report Wellington: Teaching Learning Research Initiative. (PDF - 76.84 KB)

Journal articles

Parkinson, A., Doyle, J., Cowie, B., Otrel-Cass, K., & Glynn, T. (2011). Engaging whānau with children's science learning. Set: Research Information for Teachers, 1, 3-9.

Cowie, B, Jones, A, Otrel-Cass, K. (2010). Re-engaging students in science issues of assessment, funds of knowledge and sites for learning. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 9, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2010. p.347-366.

Cowie, B, Otrel-Cass, K, Glynn, T, Kara, H. Culturally responsive pedagogies assessment of/for learning in primary science classrooms. American Educational Research Association 2010 Annual Meeting: Understanding Complex Ecologies in a Changing World. Denver, Colorado, United States; 30 April-4 May,1-21.

Cowie, B, Otrel-Cass, K. (2010). Finding out about fossils in an early years classroom: A context for developing a 'practical explanatory theory',. The Graham Nuthall Classroom Research Trust International Symposium 2010. University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand; 16-18 August, p.1-9.

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