Charting Pathways to Success: A Longitudinal Study into the Role of Science in the Lives of High-Achieving African-American High School Seniors Open Access

Tucker, Courtney E'Clair (2012)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/w37637670?locale=en
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Abstract

As the U.S. economy becomes more global, and its demographic make-up shifts; increased attention has been placed on the underproduction of scientifically and technologically trained U.S. citizens by government officials and business leaders. This underproduction can be attributed to the continued underrepresentation of minorities, particularly African Americans, in the sciences. Although, researchers have identified a variety of historical, cultural, and social explanations for the lack of African Americansin science careers, increasing the number of African Americans pursuing careers in science or science-related fields remains a challenge for science educators and policy makers.

This study explores the effect of science experiences on students' career decisions and future goals. Specifically, it considers how "high-achieving" African-American high school students, who have participated in at least one science intervention program, draw on their lived experiences to formulate definitions of science and visions of success. The study was conducted as a Narrative Inquiry that explored five African-American students' perceptions of science in three ways: as it influenced their formal schooling, as it shaped their everyday interactions, and as it interacted with their future goals. Data were collected over three years and included interviews, application packets, and demographic survey. Individual narratives of the five "high-achieving" African-American students' were constructed. These narratives provide insightful and critical assessments of their formal and informal experiences in science. Key understandings about the students' perceptions of science emerged.


Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction ……………………………………………………….. 1

Situating the Narrative Inquiry: Statement of Problem ………….…. 2

Research Questions ……………………………………..………..... 5

Significance of Problem …………………………………………….. 6

Organization of Dissertation ……………………………………….. 8

Chapter 2: Understanding African American High School Students in Science 10

Major issues in Science Education ………………………............. 10

African-American Students in Science at K-12 level ……………. 13

African-American Students Futures in Science ………………….. 18

Concluding the Narrative: Additional Areas for Exploration……….. 23

Chapter 3: Methodology for Gathering Data and Co-Creating Participant Portraits 25

What It Means to Do Narrative Inquiry ……………………………… 26

Narrative ……………………………….………………….. 26

Narrative Inquiry ………………………………….……….. 27

Setting and Participants …………………………………………….. 30

Data Sources………………………………………………………….. 32

Participant observations ……………………………………… 33

Interviews ………………………………………………….. 34

Documents …………………………………………………. 35

Data Analysis ……………………………………………………… 36

Data Storage ……………………………………………………..… 37

Researcher Perspective ………………………………..…………… 38

Reliability …………………………..……………………………… 39

Validity …………………………………………..………………… 39

Chapter 4: Presenting Participants' Portraits: A Portrayal of Individual Stories of

Personal Agency to Create Life-Long Success ……………………………. 41

Altering the Path and Hitting Road Blocks: Darren's Story ……….. 41

Reshaping and Redefining the Vision: Debbie's Story ……….. 46

Changing Me to Change My Perspectives and Priorities: Renee's Story 53

Knowing the End, but Not the Beginning: Jessica's Story ……….. 57

Breaking Through the Red Tape: Tonya's Story ……………..... 63

Chapter 5: Two Glimpses into Participants' Evolving Relationship with Science as

They Chart Pathways to Success …………………………………………. 68

What is Science? ………………………………………………… 68

What is Success? ………………………………………………… 69

Year One Composites of Science: What is Science? …..………….. 70

Science is everything. …………………………………..... 70

Science as a means to an end …………………….……....... 71

Science as a course ……………………………..……….. 74

Science as doing ………………………………………. 75

Definitions of Success ……………………………………... . 77

Success as completion of a course ………………………… 77

Success as personal fulfillment ………………………….... 78

Success as helping others ………………………………….. 79

The science of success ……………………………….. 83

Year Three Composites of Science: What is Science? ...................... 85

Science is a course ……………………………………….. 85

Science is a universal language ……………………………. 86

Science is a teacher ……………………………………….. 88

Science is doing …………………………………………… 89

Definitions of Success ……………………..……………..…….... 96

Success as scholastic achievement ……………………….. 96

Success as college admission and scholarships ………. 97

Success as happiness ……………………………………… 98

Success as financial stability ……………………………… 98

Success as helping others …………………………………. 99

Success as achieving personal goals and objectives …….... 100

Success as leading …………………………………………. 101

Success as work ethic ……………………………………… 101

Success as journey …………………………………………. 102

Success as innovation ……………………………………… 103

The Science of Success ……………………………..…….. 106

Comparison: Summer 2009 vs. Summer 2011 ……………………….. 107

Chapter 6: Science as a Tool ……………………………………………… 111

Personal Objectives and Long-Term Interest ……………………… 113

Appreciation of the Nature of Science …………………………….. 115

Fluidity of Science Definitions ………………………………………. 117

Implications ………………………...…………………………….. 118

Limitations ……………………………………………….………... 122 References ………………………………………………………………... 124

Appendix A: Interview Guide ……………………………………………... 138

Appendix B: Informed Consent …………………………………………… 139

Appendix C: Interview Summary Form …………………………………… 142

Appendix D: Scientific Attitude Inventory II ……………………………... 143

Appendix E: Relevance of Science Education Questionnaire …………….. 146

Appendix F: Participant Portraits Year One ………………………………. 150

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