Unsettling Raciolinguistic Hierarchies in U.S. Science Education
Kathryn Kirchgasler

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

Curriculum and Instruction
Science education scholars have spotlighted two concerns: (1) the exclusion of minoritized students via curricular tracking, and (2) assimilationist norms faced by those who do gain access to advanced coursework and careers. My project explores how both problems stem from unexamined histories of segregated and colonial instruction. I investigate a paradox of conditional inclusion: in ascribing minoritized students the potential to become agentic citizens, research has tended to prescribe distinct interventions to bring them closer to cultural and linguistic norms universalized as scientific. The project uses archival research to: (a) analyze science pedagogies designed for segregated Mexican schools in the United States between 1912–1947; (b) trace the colonial networks of expertise authorizing these classificatory practices; and (c) uncover tactics of refuting segregationist policies and countering assimilationist demands. The project will contribute to science education, the historiography of Mexican American education, and raciolinguistic perspectives by mapping the techniques professionalizing teachers to see and hear students as either potential scientists or not-yet-prepared citizens. By spotlighting century-old premises driving these sorting practices, prevailing strategies to recognize and respond to linguistic diversity no longer appear simply just, but rather constitutive of the racialization and coloniality with which educational scholarship must begin to reckon.
About Kathryn Kirchgasler
Kirchgasler, Kathryn
Kathryn L. Kirchgasler is an Assistant Professor of Science Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and affiliated faculty in Chicanx/e & Latinx/e Studies and the Holtz Center for Science & Technology Studies. She investigates how the field of science education’s research practices, pedagogies, and policies have continuously produced hierarchies of difference among students classified by race, language, gender, and dis/ability. By tracing the construction and contestation of these hierarchies over a century, her work strengthens efforts to pursue more just forms of science education today. Dr. Kirchgasler’s research has been published in journals including Teachers College Record, Science Education, Educational Studies in Mathematics, Curriculum Inquiry, and Paedagogica Historica. She received her doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and holds a B.A. in Psychology from Williams College. Previously, she taught middle school science in East Boston, Massachusetts and served as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant in Spain. At UW–Madison, she teaches courses on science education methods, raciolinguistic perspectives on STEM and environmental education, and the coloniality of language and science in education. She has given an invited keynote for the International Organization for Science and Technology Education (2018) and currently serves on the Leadership Council of Science Educators for Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice (SEEDS).

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