Cogenerating fluency in urban science classrooms

Sarah-Kate LaVan, University of Pennsylvania


This critical ethnographic study employed the use of cogenerative dialogue (Roth & Tobin, 2002) as a means to allow participants of a science classroom to reflect on and transform classroom structures while at the same time create opportunities for all stakeholders to develop collective responsibility for teaching and learning. The research was situated in a science classroom in an inner city charter high school that was both a challenging place for the teacher (Jen Beers) and an oppressive place for the students as all struggled to reconcile issues related to power hierarchies and significant differences in social and cultural histories. As a result, cultural misinterpretations and the undervaluing of students' cultural capital served as a foundation for learning. This study examined the various fields and forms of practice that created opportunities for refining teaching practices and at the same time afforded the development of collective responsibility by addressing the roles, identities and agency of all classroom participants. Specifically, I asked the following questions: (1) How can co-generative dialogue can be used to involve all classroom participants in creating a learning community? (2) How does this shape the identities and roles of the participants who were involved? and (3) How do the changed roles and practices lead toward science fluency? The framework of cultural sociology, specifically the dialectical relationship of structure and agency, interaction ritual theory (Collins, 2003) and research on dispositions (Boykin, 1986), provided analytic tools to investigate the practices of the various stakeholders and the classroom structures as well as the historical and cultural contexts surrounding them. Multiple data resources such as field notes, videotape, interviews and artifacts were drawn on from two fields (the science classroom and cogenerative dialogues) to elicit and support findings at micro, meso and macroscopic levels. The major findings of the study reveal that the transformation of the classroom, and consequently teacher and student practices, were recursively tied to the conversations members held in the cogenerative dialogues. The evolving classroom structures afforded individuals and community members a variety of dispositions (e.g., orality, affect, communalism, verve, movement, and expressive individualism) from which to access and employ in producing, reproducing, and transforming culture in and out of the science classroom.

Subject Area

Science education|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

LaVan, Sarah-Kate, "Cogenerating fluency in urban science classrooms" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3138043.