Making Science Homework Work: The Perspectives of Exemplary African American Science Teachers
by Jianzhong Xu, Linda T. Coats & Mary L. Davidson — 2012
Background/Context: Despite the best intentions to close the achievement gap, the underachievement of African American students in science is a persistent problem. It is surprising to note, however, that research on science education has often failed to consider students’ cultural diversity as it relates to science education. On the few occasions when efforts were made to link science disciplines and students’ cultural backgrounds, these studies were largely limited to classroom learning environments.
Purpose/Research Question: This study examines the perspectives of exemplary African American teachers toward science homework. Specifically, we address two research questions: What does science homework mean to exemplary African American science teachers? How do they approach science homework?
Research Design: A qualitative study was conducted, with data obtained from the following sources: (a) three open-ended, in-depth interviews with each exemplary teacher during the first year of the study, and (b) two focus group interviews with these teachers during the second year of the study. The participants were 8 exemplary African American science teachers in Grades 3–6 in the southeastern United States.
Findings/Results: Data revealed that these teachers shared a strong sense of urgency to use homework as an important vehicle in science learning. To help their students be successful with their homework, these teachers often provided additional provisions and used a variety of strategies to promote students’ interest in their homework. In addition, the teachers adapted an approach comparable to both Boykin’s Afrocultural ethos (e.g., concerned with affect, expressive individualism, and verve) and “being a warm demander” (i.e., setting high expectations and insisting firmly yet respectfully that students meet those expectations).
Conclusions: These findings suggest that there is merit in integrating these two frameworks to better understand the perspectives of exemplary African American teachers toward science homework. These findings highlight the need to examine the perspectives of exemplary African American teachers toward secondary school science homework given that the poor achievement of African American students becomes more pronounced as they progress through school, and homework is found to be more strongly associated with secondary school students than elementary school students.
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