“They have a lot more freedom than they know”: science education as a space for radical openness


While much research has examined the impact that neoliberal reforms have had on education, very little research has examined science teachers/teaching in particular. In this article, we share findings from a longitudinal study with 9 public school science teachers in Arizona, USA. We argue that neoliberal reforms have positioned science classrooms and science teachers as high potential sites of/for resistance to neoliberalism. We identify two factors as particularly influential in shaping the way in which science teachers resist neoliberal reforms: (1) the marginalization of science within the structure of school and teacher assessments; and (2) widespread (science) teacher shortages.

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This work was supported by funding from the Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice at the University of Arizona, faculty fellows program 2017-2019. Special thanks to the 9 teachers we had the privilege of collaborating with for this project. It was a privilege to work and learn alongside them about how we might find the capacity to create the kinds of educational spaces we believe in even in the face of structural constraints. Thanks to our research assistant, Caitlin Meyer Krause, for diligently completing the seemingly never-ending task of transcription.

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Correspondence to Sara Tolbert.

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Williams, J., Tolbert, S. “They have a lot more freedom than they know”: science education as a space for radical openness. Cult Stud of Sci Educ (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-020-10016-6

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  • Neoliberalism
  • Resistance
  • Science education
  • Teacher inquiry
  • Social justice