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Models of scientific identity

Salehjee, Saima and Watts, Mike (2018) Models of scientific identity. In: Science and Technology Education. Nova Science Publishers, [S.I.]. ISBN 978-1-53613-717-0

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This chapter examines a series of key science identity-based research models. Our purpose is to discuss the interplay of individual agency and social interaction through the lens of transformative learning. We critique those current identity-based models based on the importance given to either social structures and/or agency separately. We also review contemporary research on transformational learning and identity change, illustrating transformation or movement of learners towards, or away from, the study of science. The chapter is a contribution to the debates concerning the considerable impact of identity construction on learning, and the construction of ‘science-identity’ in particular. With this in mind, we examine the central issues in the light of the teaching and learning of science in schools and universities, as well as in the population at large. Our core argument is that an understanding and analysis of these models and theories leads to the design of a conjugated theoretical model of ‘science identity’ (Sci-ID) consisting of seven main interconnected and interlinked ‘slices’. These seven slices represent the (i) global forces (GF: such as gender, ethnicity, race and class) experienced by learners, (ii) social agencies and agents (SA: such as schools, other institutes, parents and teachers) personifying global forces, (iii) transformational learning (TL) experiences (accidental and/or planned events, triggers and interventions) shaping (iv) personal preferences, (v) meaning, and (vi) individual internal agency (IIA) directed by the inner most (vii) central core impacting upon individuals’ subject and career choices. Our concluding summary encompasses: (a) identities that are fluid and stable – with the journey towards stability depends on factors such as, for example, age, experiences, relationships, events, triggers, etc. (b) identities that are not entirely fluid, where there are forms of stability, a kind of internal force or agency that empowers people in accepting or declining the influences from the external forces; and (c) the ways in which one’s identity depends on the strength of certain GF, SA, TL experiences (events, triggers, interventions) and the strength of one’s IIA that goes with it or against it.