“We ‘Own’ the Teachers”: Understanding Subcultures of Singapore Lower Track Science Classrooms

Project Number
OER 10/16 TTW

Project Duration
August 2016 - February 2019


Subcultures emerge from within dominant and mainstream cultures, and can exert influence on the outcomes of science teaching and learning. This is an explanatory study about the subcultures of Singapore lower track science classrooms with the aim to understand the sets of understandings, behaviours and artefacts used by lower progress students in the Normal Academic streams, and diffused through interlocking group networks. We want to look for explanations on how: (1) cultural elements in these science classrooms become widespread in a population, (2) local variations in cultural content exists in group settings, and (3) subculture changes dynamically. By applying the theoretical framework of symbolic interaction to generate explanations that provide substantive knowledge on how the lower progress students learn and their science teachers teach science. The methods of data collection in this critical ethnographic study will include lesson videos, intensive student interviews, teacher interviews, observations and conversations with students in informal school settings, and documentation of artefacts. Data analysis including speech act and facework analyses will be used to unpack the performativity of the students and teachers in the science classrooms and illuminate the negotiations of power relationships, collective and individual memberships and space that in turn, affect students’ identification with or against the subcultures and their subsequent contributions to it. This study will contribute to the cultural sociology studies of science education, as there are limited (if any) empirical studies that discuss the existence of subcultures in educational contexts. The findings will offer to science teacher insights that illuminate the complex and dynamic forces that interplay with their science teaching, so that they can understand and work with, rather than against them.

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