International assessment data paints a complex picture of the engagement and achievement of New Zealand students in science. New Zealand was second only to Finland in the top achievers group in PISA 2006, but it also has one of the widest spreads in student achievement, particularly in relation to Mori and Pasifika students. Thus, the challenges faced by New Zealand students, teachers, schools and policy makers resonate with those from elsewhere. New Zealand has a strong research and development tradition around student ideas in science education, but recently, there has been increased recognition at the policy and practice level of the importance of both engagement and participation linked to student identity. A sociocultural orientation to identity has the potential to generate new ways of thinking about and responding to the challenge of engaging students in science. This orientation involves considering classrooms as sites for students working through the development and performance of science-related identities, or not. In this paper, three suggestions from long-term research studies are made for ways forward in addressing the challenge of increasing student engagement and participation through an expansion of the possibilities for students to express and develop science-related identities. These are reconceptualising assessment, the inclusion of student funds of knowledge and strategies for breaching the classroom walls.


assessment for learning funds of knowledge identity student engagement 


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Copyright information

© National Science Council, Taiwan 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bronwen Cowie
    • 1
  • Alister Jones
    • 2
  • Kathrin Otrel-Cass
    • 3
  1. 1.University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of EducationUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  3. 3.University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

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