Integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is becoming increasingly common in K-12 classrooms, and small group activities are ubiquitous to STEM instruction. This article includes both theoretical and practical descriptions of a microethnographic approach to critical multimodal discourse analysis that we used to explore power and positioning within a mixed-gender group of students working together on an engineering design challenge. We drew upon social semiotics, positioning theory, and activity theory to ground this work and utilized three phases of data analysis: microethnography to develop individual and group storylines, critical multimodal discourse analysis of key events, and the integration of storylines and discourse analysis. This multi-phase approach granted us insights into our data that would have otherwise been lacking. Microethnography revealed the significance of the shift between science and engineering activities in relation to power and positioning within the group. Multimodal analysis revealed that the introduction of new physical artifacts influenced power and positioning within the small group, with different modes of communication having different intensities across the unit. We argue that our approach is useful in analyzing complex small group interactions within science classrooms and highlight key methodological decisions for researchers interested in employing a microethnographic approach to critical multimodal discourse analysis.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 00039202 and DRL-1238140.
- Activity theory
- Discourse analysis
- Positioning theory
- STEM education
- Small group learning