Marginality Trajectories in Middle School Inquiry Science
Karlyn Adams-Wiggins

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Portland State University

Primary Discipline

Educational Psychology
When teachers transfer power to learners in collaboration intensive reform-oriented science classrooms, are the benefits equitably distributed among peers? Recent reforms emphasize learners’ engagement in scientific practices as a way to help learners think like scientists do about natural phenomena; focusing on scientific practices also is intended to leverage knowledge and abilities that learners from diverse backgrounds bring to the science classroom. Yet, despite the benefits of authentic inquiry for learning to think scientifically, peer interactions can skew opportunities to learn such that equity is undermined. Grounded in Wenger’s concept of marginal non-participation, this project uses microgenetic methods to examine how trajectories of marginality are constructed over the course of a semester for middle schoolers when inquiry science units are implemented. The proposed research produces a qualitative classification scheme for describing severity of marginality as it develops in real time and uses a multiple case study to describe marginality’s development over a semester for members of 4 collaborative groups. The proposed research extends situative perspectives on motivation and research on status problems by describing how moment-to-moment social interactions inform marginal non-participation and construct marginal identities for students in inquiry classrooms.
About Karlyn Adams-Wiggins
Karlyn Adams-Wiggins is an Assistant Professor of Applied Developmental Psychology at Portland State University. Karlyn’s research focuses on the intersection of academic achievement motivation and identity, with a specific focus on how marginal identities are constructed in social interactions in science learning environments. This involves two major strands: 1) achievement motivation from a situative perspective in science learning environments and 2) Black/African diaspora youths’ construction of identities in context. Research in the first strand has addressed group-level regulatory processes and identity processes in middle school inquiry-based science and identity processes among students from underrepresented groups in undergraduate research training programs. Research in the second strand has addressed identity in sociohistorical context for Black/African diaspora adolescent girls. Across projects, Karlyn employs a critical and sociohistorical psychology lens in service of addressing social justice aims. This work has primarily involved microgenetic analysis of video-recorded observations, ethnographic fieldwork, and qualitative interviewing.

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