The Role of Science Talk in STEM Identity Formation


August 27th, 2020

In February 2020, Dr. Remy Dou, assistant professor in the STEM Transformation Institution and Department of Teaching and Learning at Florida International University spoke with us about his research on science identity with a focus on Hispanic/Latine students and students from immigrant families. Dr. Dou is the Principal Investigator for the Talking Science research project supported by the National Science Foundation CAREER program (NSF Award #1846167). It explores the content, context, and structure of children’s STEM conversations with friends and family members and how these features relate to STEM identity development. Dr. Dou seeks to understand how the cultural values of Hispanic/Latine youth shape the nature of these conversations and related identity outcomes.

Talking Science builds directly from Dr. Dou’s previous work with Dr. Zahra Hazari who participated in CAISE’s What is STEM Identity? interview series. Their research found that talking about science with friends and family was the variable that had the largest impact on college students’ science identities. Talking Science dives deeper into these findings to better understand the role of conversations on identity development. You can learn more about recent Talking Science findings by reviewing the presentation for the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) conference titled Family Matters: A Mixed-Methods Study of Everyday Science Talk and STEM Identity Development.

Defining Science Identity

Dr. Dou defines science identity as the “extent to which somebody sees themselves as a science person” and considers it important because it drives learners’ motivations and behaviors. For education researchers and practitioners, understanding this relationship is necessary for designing for effective engagement.

Measuring Science Identity

In his work, Dr. Dou applies a framework developed by Dr. Hazari and colleagues for thinking about identity that takes into account three dimensions: competency, interest and recognition by others (Hazari, Sonnert, Sadler & Shanahan, 2010). The degree to which these dimensions are present can be an indicator of youth science identities. The Talking Science project uses surveys, designed around these three constructs, as well as in-depth interviews with college students and young children ages 5-12.

Implications for Families

The Talking Science team is learning that there are differences in conversations with parents depending on gender. That is, children are more likely to go to their mothers for homework and school-based science conversations while they go to their fathers for more “fun” and curiosity-driven science talk. One implication of the Talking Science research is to think about the different ways family members leverage capital (both broad capital and science capital) to engage in interest-driven science conversation and activities with children.

Questions Still Being Explored

Dr. Dou’s work affirms the development of science-related interest as a social, family endeavor, particularly for young children (e.g., Pattison & Dierking, 2019). Questions still exist about whether and to what extent science-related experiences shape family habits in ways that facilitate engagement with science and integrate families’ cultural and home values.

Learn More

Want to learn more about Dr. Remy Dou? Read the full interview transcript , check out his member profile, or visit his website: To learn more about CAREER award funding from the NSF Education and Human Resources directorate, see the Dear Colleague Letter here. The proposal deadline is July 26, 2021.



Hazari, Z., Sonnert, G., Sadler, P. M., & Shanahan, M-C. (2010). Connecting high school physics experiences, outcome expectations, physics identity, and physics career choice: A gender study. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(8), 978-1003.