Someone like me : a trial of context-responsive science as a mechanism to promote inclusion

Birnie, Ingeborg and Ross, Kirsty and Essex, Jane (2024) Someone like me : a trial of context-responsive science as a mechanism to promote inclusion. Centre for Educational Policy Studies Journal, 14 (1). pp. 79-103. ISSN 1855-9719 (

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This paper provides evidence gathered from two suites of non-formal science activities that were intended to increase engagement in science by culturally diverse groups. Both studies involved the delivery of science activities that were designed, implemented and evaluated to show culturally contextualised science. The activities were run in two very different contexts (urban and very rural areas) and were designed to be of relevance to two distinctive cultural groups (those with links to South Asia, and those being educated through the medium of Gaelic, an indigenous minority language in Scotland), while also actively engaging with those beyond the target group. The link between language identity and culture was incorporated into the design of both sets of activities as well as the qualitative evaluation. The latter considers how the participants’ assessment of the interventions, implemented by writing or drawing on a blank postcard, was designed to provide unstructured responses and explores what the resulting data revealed about the impact of the interventions. The findings suggest that the set of activities that most strongly engaged participants on the value of diversity in the creation of scientific knowledge, as well as increasing their focus on the consequences of scientific activity, were those that facilitated a more exploratory approach to the subject matter. By contrast, activities that had to be done according to a standard scientific protocol produced growth in subject-specific knowledge. The present paper explores the principles of the inclusive pedagogies that informed the design of the activities and discusses how these were operationalised in two very contrasting cultural contexts. The key finding was that presenting science as social practice, rather than as being socially neutral, is key to promoting engagement, along with the benefits of explicitly demonstrating the relevance of science to participants’ daily lives.