From science as ‘content’ to science as ‘interpretive key’: experiences and reflections from a science course in teacher education

Laura Colucci-Gray, Christine Fraser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Despite science's central role in European culture, public perception of, and participation with, science is characterised by contradictions and conflicting agenda. School curriculum reform, for example by Scottish Government, promotes ‘science for citizenship’, yet teachers' understandings of the nature of science and its relationship with society are often underdeveloped. This article reports on the experiences of a group of first-year students enrolled in the course ‘socio-cultural perspectives in science learning’ within a primary teacher education programme. Drawing on sociocultural theory, attention was given to language as a system for constructing symbolic realities. Through participation in activities, which explored science knowledge production and communication, students were encouraged to reflect on the nature of science and the dynamic relationship between content, methods and value-frameworks. Findings cluster around interconnected themes: students' views of knowledge, language genres across communities and knowledge–power negotiations. The course attempted to move from a space for knowledge consumption to an intermediary space between science and society for students to inhabit in the dual roles of citizens and co-constructors of knowledge. In this transition, linguistic genres pointed to the complexity of interactions between curricular materials offered by the course and newly established social networks. The article argues for further consideration of linguistic practices in science education as a means for disclosing interpretations and cultural framings and a necessary step in equipping teachers to understand ‘science for citizenship’ issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-195
Number of pages21
JournalEthnography and Education
Issue number2
Early online date18 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • science teaching
  • nature of science
  • participation
  • action-research
  • teacher education


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