Tales from the Science Education Crypt: A Critical Reflection of Positionality, Subjectivity, and Reflexivity in Research

  • Kathleen St. Louis Columbia University
  • Angela Calabrese Barton Columbia University
Keywords: reflexivity, subjectivity, positionality, parents, urban, responsibility, science


Over the past three years, we have been working in urban settings to investigate specific understandings that poor minority parents have about science education reform, their role in reform, and how they negotiate their role with other parents, their children, and their children's teachers. As critical qualitative researchers, we understand that because we work with people, methodological issues arise that we had not previously considered as part of our research design. In particular, we found ourselves confronted with questions about subjectivity and the intersections between the parents' lives, our own lives, the research process, and the intended and unintended outcomes of research. One of us (Kathleen) worked more closely with the parents to collect their stories through interviews and focus groups. Using (self-) reflexivity, we examine the methodological issues that became salient through two main questions that the research process raised for us. First, what is our responsibility, or to whom should our responsibility be, as qualitative researchers? Second, how do we address assumptions in our research that are uncovered in the process of working with the data? In this paper, we chronicle Kathleen's complex struggle with these two questions to make sense of her positionality, responsibilities, and assumptions as a researcher. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0203196


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Author Biographies

Kathleen St. Louis, Columbia University
Kathleen St. LOUIS is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests include critical perspectives and its implication for transforming science education in poor urban settings.
Angela Calabrese Barton, Columbia University
Angela Calabrese BARTON is an associate professor of science education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests include feminist and critical perspectives in science education and its implications in poor urban settings.