Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Examining Interpretive Studies of Science: A Meta-Ethnography*

Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Examining Interpretive Studies of Science: A Meta-Ethnography*

Article excerpt

Different fields of study examine science and its enterprise differently. Philosophers develop philosophical understandings of science in regard to the justification, methodology, and content (Hoyningen-Huene, 2006; Knorr-Cetina, 2001; Sismondo, 2010), whereas historians draw attention to scientific content and theories, and the development of historical artifacts (e.g., instruments) and ideas (Knorr-Cetina, 1995; Vinck, 2010). History and philosophy of science enrich our understanding of science along with a focus on experiments, but not on laboratories, which are natural sites for knowledge generation (Guggenheim, 2012; Knorr-Cetina, 2001). Sociologists have been interested in exploring the whole process of knowledge generation, the social structure of science, and the norms of scientific practice. Ethnographic studies have been conducted in many science-laboratory contexts (Duschl, 2008; Knorr-Cetina, 1995; Vinck, 2010).

Ethnographic studies in science are a means for further understanding the cultural portrait of professional science communities and examining the commonalities and differences of scientific practice that shed light on the common characteristics of scientific communities. In this paper, we draw on three exemplary ethnographic studies in the account of sociology of science: (1) "Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts" (Latour & Woolgar, 1986), (2) "Beamtimes and Lifetimes: The World of High Energy Physicists" (Traweek, 1988), and (3) "Art and Artifact in Laboratory Science" (Lynch, 1985). To guide our investigation, we pose the overarching research question, "What are the descriptions of scientific practice as portrayed by ethnographic studies of science?" To answer this question, we analytically examine and document the concepts the authors used to represent and interpret the scientific practice and knowledge generation process. Next we make a synthesis of our documentation of the concepts the authors used. This investigation allows us to narrow the gap between school and professional science practice. This gap emerged from the misrepresentations of scientific work, or the way scientists perform their inquiries to conceptualize natural phenomena and a lack of understanding of the various dimensions of scientific practice.

Our purpose is not to criticize ethnographies of science within the context of any philosophical perspectives (e.g., relativism, realism, and logical positivism), but instead, to present the commonalities and differences among the three ethnographic studies, identify the distinct characteristics of scientific communities, and then portray a more holistic picture of how science is accomplished in order to translate them for use in understanding scientific practice in the science classroom. These three ethnographic studies can be conceived as past scientific communities, yet at the time, they have had groundbreaking impact in science and science education community. Their impact is still being observed in the field of science education. Therefore, being informed about the dimensions of past scientific communities can be a means for one to reconceptualize the dimensions of scientific practice in a way that reconsiders what the practice of science is and how it takes place in school science classrooms.

Theoretical Perspectives

Laboratory Studies: Different methodologies (e.g., ethnography and ethnomethodology) employed to understand the scientific and technological practices yielded laboratory studies (Knorr- Cetina, 1995). Laboratory studies are known as the anthropology of science and are associated with science and technology studies (STS). These studies explore the norms and characteristics of scientific practice and explain the constructive nature of knowledge production (Knorr-Cetina, 2001). In laboratory studies, sociologists, anthropologists, and ethnographers have conducted participant observations in research laboratories. These observations have augmented our understanding of science as practice and culture (Pickering, 1992; Ziman, 2000). …

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