Date of Award

Summer 8-8-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Renee Schwartz

Second Advisor

Brendan Calandra

Third Advisor

Jennifer Esposito

Fourth Advisor

Natalie King


This research argues that the lack of African American women in science careers is the result of a nuanced and complicated process and can only be adequately addressed through consideration of multiple levels of discourse. Specifically, a better understanding of macro level discourses that are present in and circulated through schools and work to position African American girls in ways that are outside of science learning is necessary. This research used a critical ethnographic approach to explore the science experiences of African American middle school girls. Data were collected on the macro (school wide), meso (classroom and after school program), and micro (individual) level. Critical discourse analysis was used to explore what macro-level discourses were circulated at the school, how these discourses impacted the seventh grade science class and after school program, and how individual students negotiated these discourses. Results indicated that the privileged Discourses (identities) in the classroom actually worked to position students outside of science and that a focus on accountability, control, and order, with a lack of discourses of authentic engagement in science, led to students equating a science person with a good student.