Science Teachers from Non-western Backgrounds Challenged by (Western) Science: A Whole Other Ball Game

By Sean Perera.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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The apparent Western predisposition of modern science is well established in the literature. Scholars, over half a century, have argued that North Atlantic White male Caucasian values and beliefs have governed scientific thought and the processes of scientific inquiry. An extensive number of studies document the challenges that young learners from non-Western backgrounds encounter when they become students of (Western) science. There is, however, a prevailing assumption that these challenges cease to exist as those learners grow older. In fact, few studies, if any, mention such challenges encountered by science teachers from non-Western backgrounds. This paper describes some of the unique challenges experienced by science teachers from Sri Lanka and Indonesia when they constructed scientific knowledge in the context of in-service professional development. The findings revealed that science teachers from non-Western backgrounds did experience difficulties when they crossed cultural-frontiers. For instance, the teachers preferred practices that were endemic to the traditional teaching of Western science, and they resisted attempts to alter their perceived ideas of Western scientific knowledge. It is possible to conclude, therefore, that science teachers from non-Western backgrounds continue to be challenged by Western science, although the challenges they encounter are different to those of non-Western students.

Keywords: Western Science, Non-western Learners, Professional Development, Cultural-frontiers, Compartmentalization, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.11-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 657.646KB).

Dr. Sean Perera

Researcher, Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Dr. Sean Perera is a Researcher at the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at The Australian National University in Canberra. Sean’s PhD research explored the implication of science communication in teacher professional development contexts. His research also investigates science communication from a cross-cultural perspective: the appreciation of Western scientific knowledge by non-Western audiences. Sean has been a member of the teaching staff at The Australian National University. He has taught at the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and the School of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. Prior to The Australian National University, Sean taught at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, and was a research officer for the CGIAR Challenge Program for Water and Food. Dr. Sean Perera was the recipient of the 2007 Edward Gray Memorial Award which recognised his contribution towards enhancing relations between Australia and Sri Lanka.