Centrum för genusvetenskap

Norms and values in a chemistry discourse: Discursive analyses of the Swedish national test in chemistry and student answers.

PhD thesis short description: The aim of this thesis was to examine the conditions for democratic bildung-oriented education for students in the school science discourse. This is something that the Swedish curriculum is based on and thereby the education should develop students' capacity for social, political and cultural awareness. The theoretical framework used is grounded in critical didactics and feminist theories which assume that students should feel involved and get their voices heard. The Swedish national test in chemistry (2009-2012) and student answers (198n) from one of the items in the 2009 test have been analyzed using discourse analysis. Three studies have been conducted within the framework of the thesis. The first study explored the norms and values present in the national tests in chemistry, in relation to people, society and nature. The second study focused on student’s evaluative language use in their free-text answers to one of the items in the national test in chemistry from 2009. Thereby attitudes in student answers were projected in relation to the norms and values found in the first study. Finally, the student answers were used once more in a third study, where students’ positioning in relation to the scientific discourse in the chemistry test was explored, as well as which feminist figurations these subject positions express.

The results show that the national tests harbor an elitist image and anandrocentric bias. The normative message is that students should adopt an objective, rational, non-judgmental and nonemotional role. Topics connected to young people’s everyday life, that might interest students, are rare. Contrary to the normative messages mediated by the tests, students use evaluative and embodied language to a high extent in their answers. They choose to write about topics that are close to their everyday life and they show that they are emotionally engaged. Through feminist figurations theories used in the third study one can see how the student-subject positions offer resistance in different ways. This is shown in their criticism of science and technology, human society and nature. The students' responses have embraced an embodied chemistry that can be interpreted as teaching based on bildung and deliberative discussions.

Keywords: Apparatus of bodily production, bildung, Cartesian thoughts, critical didactics perspective, deliberative communication, democracy, , embodied science teaching, emotions, empowering, engagement, epistemological community, evaluative language resources, feminist theories, feminist figurations, involvement, subject positions, performativity theory, semantic framework Appraisal, stereotyped dichotomies, students’ attitudes.

The dissertation take place the May 13 2016 at the Department of education, Blåsenhus Uppsala University.

Contact: Marie Ståhl