Education aims to support the growth and realization of students’ intellectual agency, or power to act. This talk will outline a model of how intellectual agency is shaped and realized in scientific communities of practice and will sketch an educational research agenda that follows from it. I will describe how collective agency and individual agency are related and what this implies for modes of participation in practice and scientific reasoning. I will present a sampling of my empirical work to support assertions in three areas: 1) how Gee’s (2012) notion of Discourse is an appropriate construct for describing leverage for learning in science classrooms and for conceptualizing cultural resources that are relevant to participation in scientific practice; 2) what students learn when instrumental modes of participation are approximated in classroom activity designs; and 3) how this learning from engagement is fundamental to scientific literacy. Finally, I will draw parallels between this model of scientific practice and a model of deliberative democracy put forward by Gutman and Thompson (2004), noting similarities of key practice structures and implications for reasoning, norms, and values that underpin a just society.
Dr. Michael Ford has been serving as Program Director at the National Science Foundation since 2013. Previously, he was Associate Professor of Instruction and Learning in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education. His research focuses on the development of scientific reasoning, primarily in secondary classroom contexts. His work draws on the notion of “practice,” as it refers both to an account of scientific knowledge formation and an account of sociocultural learning through participation. His learning environment designs elicit and shape classroom discourse patterns that support scientific understanding, scientific literacy, critical reasoning, and democratic deliberation. His work has been funded by various sources including the National Science Foundation and Spencer Foundation, through a NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship. Dr. Ford has served on several editorial boards, including Review of Educational Research, Science and Education and Science Education, where he was an editor of the section on Learning for more than 10 years. At NSF, Dr. Ford serves in the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Contexts on the AISL, CAREER, DRK12, ITEST, STEM+C and CSforAll programs. Dr. Ford holds PhD and MS degrees in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin--Madison and a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.