Studying the development of agency and political consciousness in science education

Shirin Vossoughi*, Molly Shea

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In this commentary, we wrestle with key ideas presented in Schenkel, Calabrese Barton, Tan, Nazar, and Flores’ Framing Equity through a Closer Examination of Critical Science Agency and offer a series of theoretical and methodological attunements we view as germane to the visions of educational justice discussed therein. We begin by discussing the promising theoretical framework presented in the article, particularly the authors’ call for the field to engage more directly with issues of power and political consciousness in science education. We then turn to their empirical analysis of critical science agency, highlighting interactional moments and student reflections on learning that offer important insights into this concept. We then trace a series of theoretical and methodological tensions that raise questions about the ways researchers conceptualize and study the development of agency and political consciousness among youth, particularly those from minoritized and non-dominant communities, as well as the ways terms like community, consequentiality, and scales of justice/injustice are defined analytically. This discussion is interwoven with our efforts to name dispositions and lines of inquiry we view as imperative for research on the learning experiences of others that moves from a place of criticality and humility. We write as scholars and educators who share many of the authors’ concerns and are invested in research on science education that supports expansive learning and transformative praxis across researchers, educators, young people, and communities (Engeström in Theory Psychol 21(5):598–628, 2011.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-334
Number of pages8
JournalCultural Studies of Science Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Agency
  • Learning
  • Political consciousness
  • Science education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies


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