Factors influencing elementary teachers’ positioning of African American girls as science and mathematics learners
The article presents the findings of NSF funded project that examined how low-income African American girls are positioned as science and mathematics learners.
Despite recent progress toward gender equity in science and mathematics education, the underachievement of low-income African American girls remains a challenge when compared with their white counterparts. Furthermore, the causes of this persistent underachievement have not been explored thoroughly. We have initiated a three-year longitudinal study of how African American girls position themselves in relation to science and mathematics learning from fifth to seventh grade, including the impact, if any, of the positioning of teachers, counselors, and parents on this process. In this article, we share findings examining science and mathematics teachers’ actions and perceptions and their positioning of African American girls. This qualitative study used an interpretive design with multiple data sources including classroom observations, interviews, and field notes. Findings reveal that school-wide policies and teachers’ autonomous decisions impact the regularity of science and mathematics instruction, and that teachers do not always conceptualize the girls as science and mathematics achievers, positioning them in negative ways.