Radical constructivism grows out of the belief that knowledge is constructed and legitimated by individuals as they make sense of their experiences in particular contexts and drawing on their own histories. Extending this understanding of learning and ways of knowing to girls as they work in the terrain of science, we argue that honoring student experience as the starting place for science instruction fundamentally alters the nature of science, the purpose of teaching and learning science, and the focus of relationships in science class. The implications for this position are extensive: they suggest that the dynamic relationships between language and cultural background of students and teachers alter the ways in which science education historically has enacted discipline, curriculum and pedagogy. We argue that this is particularly important to understand, for science and science education have historically operated within the masculine domain and working with girls in science in ways that respect their (gendered and cultural) construction of knowledge and their experiences, fundamentally alters the enterprise of science – an idea contradictory to most visions of the purposes of education and current reform efforts in science education, even the most liberal.
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