Identity Development of Middle School Students as Learners of Science at an Informal Science Education Camp

March 25th, 2012 | RESEARCH

This study investigated middle school students’ identity development as learners of science during learning conversations at an informal science education camp. The central research question was: What is the role of conversation in influencing science learner identity development during an informal science education camp? Identity in this study was defined as becoming and being recognized as a certain type of person (Gee, 2001). This study focused particularly on discursive identity, defined as individual traits recognized through discourse with other individuals (Gee, 2005; 2011). The study used an exploratory case study. Data collection included videotaped observations, field notes, interviews and participants’ reflective journal entries. Each source of data was examined for the conversation that it generated. I used qualitative methods to analyze the data including discourse analysis and the constant comparison method for emergent themes. From the findings of this study, I theorized that learning conversations played a role in developing participants’ identities as learners of science. Participants used language in the following ways: to make sense of science content, to position themselves, to align their discourse and practices with science, to communicate with others which resulted in engagement, to re-negotiate power, and to see others in new ways. The findings of this research support and extend the research literature on identity, learning conversations and science camp programs. This study has implications for those involved with informal education program and exhibit development.



Team Members

Kelly Riedinger, Author, University of Maryland, College Park


Audience: Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | General STEM | Life science
Resource Type: Conference Proceedings | Reference Materials
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs | Summer and Extended Camps