Students’ representations of scientific practise during a science internship: Reflections from an activity-theoretic perspective

P.-L. Hsu, M.W. Eijck, van, W.-M. Roth

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Working at scientists' elbows is one suggestion that educators make to improve science education, because such "authentic experiences" provide students with various types of science knowledge. However, there is an ongoing debate in the literature about the assumption that authentic science activities can enhance students' understandings of scientific practice. The purpose of the study is to further address the debate in terms of the ethnographic data collected during an internship programme for high school students right through to their public presentations at the end. Drawing on activity theory to analyse these presentations, we found that students presented scientific practice as accomplished by individual personnel without collaboration in the laboratory. However, our ethnographic data of their internship interaction show that students have had conversations about the complex collaborations within and outside the laboratory. This phenomenon leads us to claim that students experienced authentic science in their internships, but their subsequent representations of authentic science are incomplete. That is, participating in authentic science internships and reporting scientific practice are embedded activities that constitute different goals and conditions rather than unrefracted reflections of one another. The debate on the influence on students' understanding of science practice is not simply related to situating students in authentic science contexts, but also related to students' values and ideology of reporting their understanding of and about science. To help students see these "invisible" moments of science practice is therefore crucial. We make suggestions for how the invisible in and of authentic science may be made visible.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1243-1266
    JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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