NARST CRT Symposium 2016 Blog

Symposium: A Mini-Course on Race/Racism and Critical Race Theory for Application in Science Education Research


Understandings of race/racism and critical race theory have emerged in the social sciences and very recently in science education scholarship. However, we have noticed that theoretical, methodological, and pedagogical understandings of race/racism and critical race theory may be used with greater relevancy and application in science education. Hence, one way to promote greater understanding is to have discussions of race/racism and critical race theory by science education researchers and educators who engage in this work and who can offer insights into addressing race/racism and critical race theory within their specific areas of interest. The proposed symposium brings together science education scholars with an interest in race/racism and critical race theory in science education. This symposium, or the mini-course, is an innovative and engaging format for NARST members, and for scholars interested in using critical and sociocultural perspectives in their research. Of particular interest will be for NARST members as critical scholars may approach the study and teaching of race/racism and critical race theory in their research and teaching.


The proposed symposium brings together science education scholars with an interest in race/racism and critical race theory in science education. This symposium contributes to emerging research in science education as it relates to understanding how race/racism impacts the teaching, learning, and educational experiences of youth and teachers. In order to explore the ways in which race/racism and critical race theory are related to the teaching and learning of science, the organizer and presenters introduce to the NARST program an exciting new format— the “mini-course.” We propose this mini-course as an educational forum for learning about race/racism and critical race theory in order to develop deeper theoretical, methodological, and pedagogical understandings as well as to discuss our approach to race/racism and critical race theory (CRT) and their application in science education research.

We will provide participants ahead of time the curriculum for the mini-course, which are published and recent work on race/racism and critical race theory by the presenters of the symposium. Participants will also receive a set of questions to guide reading and discussion. The curriculum, or articles, book chapter, and empirical studies will be accessible via Google drive and/or the NARST website (i.e., “Mini-Course Website”). Therefore, the mini-course website will be accessible to all NARST members. NARST members who want to participate in the mini-course will read and prepare for the session ahead of time and will participate in the mini- course at the annual meeting. When NARST members attend the session at NARST as participants, or students for the mini-course, it will be an interactive lecture on major themes, theory, and application of CRT and discussions of the historical underpinnings of race/racism. We will utilize both small group and large group discussion to promote understanding of race/racism and CRT in science education.

The mini-course is an innovative and engaging format for NARST members, and for scholars interested in using critical and sociocultural perspectives in their research. Of particular interest is how scholars may approach the study and teaching of race/racism and critical race theory in their research and teaching.

The proposed symposium will consist of five parts: (a) introduction of the mini-course format, and overview of CRT themes by the organizer (15 min); (b) discussion of the readings led collectively by all the presenters (40 min); (c) commentary from the discussant (15 minutes); and (d) closing by the organizer (10 min). Finally, as presenters in the session,we will use the last 10 minutes for (e) discussion of potential collaborative projects by offering next steps for our work and inviting participants to engage in conversations with us for future studies and ways they may apply race/racism and CRT in their research and teaching.

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Below are the five papers that will comprise the curriculum for the mini-course. The curriculum will promote learning and discussion of race/racism and critical race theory at the NARST conference:

Paper 1: Life’s First Need Is for Us to be Realistic and Other Reasons for Examining the Sociocultural Construction of Race in the Science Performance of African American Students

Abstract: The body of research aimed at explaining the science teaching and learning of African Americans has identified myriad factors that correlate with African American’s science career choices and science performance generally. It has not, however, offered any satisfactory explanations as to why those factors are disproportionately racially determined. This article argues that the sociocultural construction of race, which has roots in antebellum Western society, has endured to the present day; and that there is sufficient historical tradition and empirical evidence to warrant a research agenda that accounts for the sociocultural construction of race in explaining African American science education. The article concludes by suggesting a set of research questions and theoretical perspectives that considers the sociocultural construction of race to guide future research.

Paper 2: Unpacking and Critically Synthesizing the Literature on Race and Ethnicity in Science Education

Abstract: Race and ethnicity are viewed as socio-historical constructs in this chapter that unpacks, synthesizes, and critiques from a critical race theory perspective science education research in the United States. In many studies, race and ethnicity are invisible or circumvented,the use of proxies to infer their existence and approximate the space that they occupied in investigated phenomena. In the few studies that conceptualize and make them central to the research, presentism and individualism are paramount, two orientations that negate the socio- historical and systemic nature of race and ethnicity. The chapter concludes with recommendations situated in the transformative research paradigm.

Paper 3: Awakening a Dialogue: A Critical Race Theory Analysis of U. S. Nature of Science Research from 1967 to 2013

Abstract: As the nation’s K-12 classrooms become increasingly more racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse, it is incumbent upon the science community to seize opportunities to attend to the rhetoric of reform, namely to enhance scientific literacy for all students. Using Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a framework, this study examined 112 nature of science (NOS) research peer-reviewed studies conducted in the U. S. from (1967 to 2013). Results suggests that while White participants are being represented in the NOS research, Black, Latino, Native American and other people of color, were found to be disproportionally excluded as participants. Implications of excluding these individuals are explored and suggestions for making NOS research more equitable are discussed.

Paper 4: Critical Voices in Teacher Education: Preparing for the Discussion of Race

Abstract: This study speaks to elements of theory, practice, and research with emphasis on the preparation of self as teachers when we consider the influence of race in science teacher education. The participants in this study were second and third year doctoral students (science education and social studies education majors) interested in becoming teacher educators. This study reports on their learning to address issues of race and equity in a 16-week teacher education course, Critical Voices in Teacher Education, that utilized large and small group interactive discussions, group assignments, course readings (i.e., reports, published articles, and book chapters), video clip pre-post reflection discussions, and engagement in small research studies applicable in teacher education and classrooms. The findings of the study reveal how discussions of race tied to teacher education expanded doctoral students’ understanding of not only issues of race/racism about students but also about themselves as teacher educators; and second, the content, interactions, and discussions in the course assisted the doctoral students in gaining greater understanding of how to connect race issues to larger concerns in teacher education.

Paper 5: Mindfulness and Discussing Issues of Race in the Classroom

Abstract: We are interested in what it means to create safe emotional spaces in order to have the kind of discussions needed around difficult issues like race. Such discussions often include sharing personal stories that may be painful. It may also include discussing painful and tough topics like the “n” word. For these reasons, teacher education programs tend to avoid having these discussions as most faculty do not know how to engage in difficult discussions themselves. In this discussion we offer one option or strategy for discussing hard topics, and it is through the use of heuristics and mindfulness interventions. Our presentation will focus on our own experience in having these difficult discussions in a science teacher preparation program as part of a course, what we learned, and how such discussions can be encouraged, welcoming, and more appropriate through the use of mindful practices and heuristics. This is a case where generating mindful practices in discussing emotionally difficult topics like race help generate critical theory, like radical listening, becoming more mindful (becoming aware, showing compassion, etc.), welcoming different perspectives, and learning from the “other.”


Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education. Teachers College Record, 97(1), 47-68.

Milner IV, H.R. (2007). Race, culture, and researcher positionality: Working through dangers seen, unseen, and unforeseen. Educational Researcher, 36, 388-400.

Sleeter, C. E. (2008). Preparing White teachers for diverse students. In S. Feiman-Nemser & D. J. McIntyre (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education: Enduring questions in changing contexts (3rd ed., pp. 559-582). New York, NY: Routledge