Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published in Learning Environments Research International, 5(1), pp. 29-50. © 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Used by permission. The original publication is available at


The purpose of this study was to provide an opportunity for science teachers to ‘listen’ to adolescent girls discuss their ideas and feelings about the contemporary structure of middle-level science education. The reflections of these teachers were then analyzed to capture how the teachers interpreted what adolescent girls had to say and the action that they will take in the classroom as a result of those interpretations. This qualitative study investigated 11 teachers and 51 Grade 7 and 8 girls from various states across the continental USA. The girls discussed such things as their favorite science topics, comfort level in science classrooms, and curiosities about the physical world. The study revealed that adolescent girls strive to make a connection to science. They can see how science can help them to understand better themselves and their world, but they seldom find such understandings in contemporary science classrooms. In addition, adolescent girls not only need to have choices in their studies, but they understand that need. The study revealed that the teachers interpreted the girls’ request from an assimilative perspective by seeking ways to help the girls ‘fit’ into the existing structure of science education. The implications of the study suggest that science education will need to change in response to the voices of the ‘others’, but that change will only happen if we prepare teachers better to be prepared to listen and change practice in light of what they hear.