How does the culture of a community show up in a physics class?

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Episode 501: Keep arguing Florida International University

A sociocultural perspective on science education includes the idea that everything we do is shaped by the social structures we live in. According to this theory, how each of us learns is in some ways typical of people who share our language, belief systems, value systems, and practices. How does the culture of a community show up in a science class?

July 2, 2018

Pedagogy Content
Promoting equity
Physics Content
Instructor Interaction
STEM-wide audiences

Lesson Contents (2 MB)Student Handout
Transcript, discussion questions, and problem

(2 MB)Specific Lesson Guide
Facilitator's guide for this lesson

(1 MB)General Facilitator's Guide
Background and best practices

(334 MB)Video
Captioned video


Sample Discussion Prompts

  1. What did you notice in this episode? Talk to your neighbor about what you noticed.


  2. One student seems to be concerned about “majority rule” in this context. What is her concern? What negative experiences with “majority rule” do some cultures experience?

  3. Leon says that his test rewards those who can make a compelling argument to the others in their group; otherwise, he says, “maybe you didn't understand it as well as you needed to in order to argue these points effectively.” What values of the scientific community may be reflected in Leon’s statement?

  4. In this episode, a number of power structures are proposed, including democracy (majority rule) and meritocracy (the highest-quality answer wins). What other power structures are proposed in this episode – what else might determine who “wins” in this classroom?

  5. This is a class in which over 70% of the students are Hispanic (of diverse origins). If you have expertise in one or more Hispanic cultures, share some ways in which you see that culture possibly manifesting in this episode.

  6. A number of the students who speak in this episode are female. Others, including the instructor, are male. What gender issues do you see possibly manifesting in this episode?

  7. What does this episode suggest about how the culture of a community shows up in a science class?

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How can I assess group work in a way that is equitable? How can I assess students in a class emphasizing group work? Why might students not want to argue in class?