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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.v9.i1.20
18 pages


Heidi B. Carlone
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro


In this ethnographic study, the author describes the meanings of science and science student in a physics classroom in an upper-middle-class high school and the ways girls participated within these meanings. The classroom practices reproduced prototypical meanings of science (as authoritative) and science student (as "dutiful"). The results highlight girls' embrace of prototypical school science. Yet at the end of the school year, the girls did not consider themselves "science people," nor did they want to pursue physics further. The author's interpretation of these results takes seriously girls' agency in producing the meaning of the physics class (as a way to polish one's transcript) and draws attention to the promoted identities (prototypical good student identities) in the classroom. The author argues that students' agency in resisting or accepting the practices, identities, and knowledge of school science is worth understanding for the improvement of science education.