How can science inquiry help to enhance social solidarity?

Year: 2019

Author: Bellocchi, Alberto

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The STEM agenda has broadly focused on the promise of a future workforce that will rely on STEM skills. Other beneficial outcomes from a STEM education that address global socio-cultural issues have only recently gained traction in science education research. In this presentation, I explore some alternative learning outcomes that science education has to offer our children through science inquiry projects. At a time of increasing social and cultural divisiveness, this presentation asks whether science inquiry can serve as a vehicle for fostering social bonds amongst high school science students. Drawing on video data from three different 8th and 10th grade science classes, this study explores the dynamics of science inquiry group work. Micro-analytic techniques informed by microsociology are used to interpret student-student interactions and to understand how the status of social bonds changes over time. The focus of analysis is on the impact of various aspects of science inquiry on the formation, maintenance, and disruption of social bonds. Study outcomes revealed how science inquiry projects can make or break social bonds with various effects on individual students. When bonds become broken, considerable effort is expended after the inquiry task is over to repair relationships. This emotional work conducted by students occurs beyond teacher awareness, leaving students to navigate the complex terrain of interpersonal relationships by drawing on individual capacities. The structure of inquiry tasks and their association with assessment is one important factor shaping student choices when interacting with friends and peers. Implications of the study attend to the ways in which science inquiry can be a vehicle for students to learn about social bonds and how to build social solidarity in ways that might prepare for them to foster social solidarity in their post-high school lives.

Keywords: science inquiry, social bonds, STEM agenda