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Selfies at the science museum: exploring girls’ identity performances in a science learning space

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Science education has a seemingly intractable gender problem and remains largely the reserve of White, middle-class men and boys, especially in the physical sciences. In this paper, taking an intersectional approach to Butler’s idea of identity as performance, we explore the affordances and limitations of a specific science learning space (a science museum) for girls. We discuss four types of performance, one based on ‘good’ behaviour, one combining masculinity and ‘race’/ethnicity, one of silence and one based on being ‘cool’. We focus on the experiences of 25 girls aged 12-13, from a mixture of ethnic backgrounds, from two inner-city, state-run, co-educational London schools, in the UK. We argue that the museum space put girls in a difficult position for both learning science and enacting the identities they were invested in. We conclude by reflecting on the implications for science learning spaces that disrupt rather than reproduce social inequalities.
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Keywords: Femininities; Identities; informal learning; intersectionality; science and Technology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Science & Technology Studies, University College London, London, UK 2: Department of Education, Practice & Society, Institute of Education, University College London, London, UK 3: Office of the Provost, Imperial College London, London, UK 4: School of Education, Communication & Society, King's College London, London, UK

Publication date: July 3, 2020

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