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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Brandy A. Skjold
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Mallinson Institute for Science Education
Title: Describing the Apprenticeship of Chemists through the Language of Faculty Scientists
Dr. Renee’ Schwartz, Chair
Dr. Marcia Fetters
Dr. Susan Stapleton
Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
2734 Wood Hall
Attempts to bring authentic science into the K-16 classroom have led to the use of sociocultural theories of learning, particularly apprenticeship, to frame science education research. Science educators have brought apprenticeship to science classrooms and have brought students to research laboratories in order to gauge its benefits. The assumption is that these learning opportunities are representative of the actual apprenticeship of scientists. However, there have been no attempts in the literature to describe the apprenticeship of scientists using apprenticeship theory. Understanding what science apprenticeship looks like is a critical component of translating this experience into the classroom. This study seeks to describe and analyze the apprenticeship of chemists through the talk of faculty scientists. It uses Lave and Wenger’s (1991) theory of Legitimate Peripheral Participation as its framework, concentrating on describing the roles of the participants, the environment and the tasks in the apprenticeship, as per Barab, Squire and Dueber (2000). A total of nine chemistry faculty and teaching assistants are observed across 11 settings representing a range of learning experiences from introductory chemistry lectures to research laboratories. All settings are videotaped, focusing on the instructor. About 89 hours of video has been taken, along with observer field notes. All videos are transcribed and transcriptions and field notes are analyzed qualitatively as a broad level discourse analysis. Findings suggest that learners are expected to know basic chemistry content and how to use basic research equipment before entering the research lab. These are taught extensively in classroom settings. However, students are also required to know how to use the literature base to inform their own research, though they have rarely been exposed to this in the classrooms. In all settings, conflicts occurr when a student under or over-estimated their role in the learning environment. While faculty moves effortlessly between settings, students have difficulty adjusting to new roles in different settings. The findings suggest that one beneficial way of bringing apprenticeship into the classroom, would be to expose students to scientific literature early, emphasizing the community of practice and the roles that learners, faculty and scientists play within it.