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E-Textiles as a Vehicle for Shifting Teachers' Private Conceptions About Student Ability and Race

Sat, April 6, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Floor: 800 Level, Room 801A


OBJECTIVE. A decade of research into the affordances of programmable, wearable electronics in K-12 classrooms indicates that e-textiles materials and curricula can successfully engage both underrepresented students in STEM learning and provide opportunities for shifts in teacher conceptions of who does science. With over 200 teachers across multiple STEM disciplines now trained to teach through e-textiles, some common themes emerge about those affordances. Teachers often hold private conceptions of entire cultural groups regarding student ability and interest based on historic classroom performances observed; very often teachers are unaware of these private conceptions. However, e-textiles often disrupts educators’ narratives as it moves STEM learning from paperwork to hands-on learning.
PERSPECTIVES. Drawing upon critical race theory, Whiteness studies, and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (Brayboy, 2005; Castagno, 2014; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Meyer, 2008; Michael, 2014) we explore the following questions: (1) What common beliefs, if any, do rural White teachers hold about underrepresented students and their teaching roles and relationships with them? And (2) In what ways, if any, do teacher perceptions shift through engagement with e-textiles instruction?
METHODS & DATA. The three rural teachers included in this cross-case analysis work with non-white populations. Drawing upon interviews, observations, artifacts, and classroom transcripts, we developed three case studies of rural teachers working with non-white populations. Using analytic induction (Erickson, 1986), we examine the ways through artifacts, interviews, and classroom observations. All teachers’ names are pseudonyms.
FINDINGS. Our cases illustrate how teachers held common but nuanced beliefs about their non-White students. Edward, a white male in his early 40s, is a master teacher for whom e-textiles shifted his beliefs about his Latinx students’ abilities and efforts. Ellen, a white woman in her 50s, is another master teacher for whom e-textiles helped her to engage her progressive learning beliefs while examining her unknown biases towards her native student population. Sandy, a white woman in her late 30s, a veteran teacher for whom e-textiles did not shift her private conceptions of who did science, illustrating clashes between dominant classroom culture and discourse patterns for rural, underrepresented students.
Some articulated high value for the Native and Latinx community concepts but also expressed beliefs about their abilities as inferior. As one teacher commented: “These kids just are not taught to persist. But with this, they have to. I don’t have to babysit them through everything. During PD I thought, ‘there’s no way this will work with these kids.’ But they loved it. It wasn’t just science to them; it was theirs to do. I will definitely try and do this with them again.” One of the most important affordances possible for e-textiles may be the potential to shift private conceptions teachers about what groups can do science.
SIGNIFICANCE. Without prior positive exposure, support, and interest, students are unlikely to choose science as a focus of future pursuits (Hall et al., 2011). The chance to shift teachers’ deeply held beliefs about specific groups of students may open doors around questions of who can do science.


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