Date of Award

2-7-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Mary P. Deming - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Asa G. Hilliard III

Third Advisor

Dr. Mary Ariail

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Nydia R. Hanna

Abstract

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (2000) reports an achievement gap between male and female students and majority and minority students in science literacy. Rutherford and Ahlgren (2000) describe a scientifically literate person as one who is aware that science, mathematics, and technology are interdependent human enterprises with strengths and limitations; understands key concepts and principles of science; is familiar with the natural world and recognizes both its diversity and unity; and uses scientific knowledge and scientific ways of thinking for individual and social purposes. The purpose of this qualitative case study research was to investigate African American eighth grade female students’ perceptions and experiences as learners of science literacy. A social learning theory (Bandura, 1986) and constructivist theory (Vygotsky, 1977) served as a guide for the researcher. Two questions were explored: 1. What are African American eighth grade female students’ perceptions and experiences as learners of science literacy? 2. In what ways do the perceptions and experiences of African American eighth grade female students influence their learning of science literacy? Purposeful sampling (Merriam, 1998) was used with four African American eighth grade female students selected as participants for the study. Data collection and analysis occurred between Feburary and August in a single year. Data sources included an open-ended questionnaire, two in-depth interviews with each participant (Seidman, 1991); classroom observations, participant reflective journals, student artifacts, and a researcher’s log. Data were analyzed through the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), and richly descriptive participant portraits and qualitative case studies (Merriam, 1998) were used to report the findings. Three themes emerged from the study that positively affected the perceptions and experiences of African American eighth grade female students as learners of science literacy: 1) the influence of family members, especially mothers and grandmothers, 2) the personal connections made to science concepts and real life, 3) the creative student-researched and designed projects, labs, and experiments.Trustworthiness and rigor were established through adherence to guidelines for establishing credibility, confirmability, dependability, and transferability (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).

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