Negotiating identity and science teaching in a high-stakes testing environment: An elementary teacher's perceptions

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18 Scopus citations


This study draws upon a qualitative case study to investigate the impact of the high-stakes test environment on an elementary teacher's identities and the influence of identity maintenance on science teaching. Drawing from social identity theory, I argue that we can gain deep insight into how and why urban elementary science teachers engage in defining and negotiating their identities in practice. In addition, we can further understand how and why science teachers of poor urban students engage in teaching decisions that accommodate school demands and students' needs to succeed in high-stakes tests. This paper presents in-depth experiences of one elementary teacher as she negotiates her identities and teaching science in school settings that emphasize high-stakes testing. I found that a teacher's identities generate tensions while teaching science when: (a) schools prioritize high-stakes tests as the benchmark of teacher success and student success; (b) activity-based and participatory science teaching is deemphasized; (c) science teacher of minority students identity is threatened or questioned; and (d) a teacher perceives a threat to one's identities in the context of high stakes testing. Further, the results suggest that stronger links to identities generate more positive values in teachers, and greater possibilities for positive actions in science classrooms that support minority students' success in science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-586
Number of pages18
JournalCultural Studies of Science Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009


  • Elementary science
  • High-stakes test
  • Identity
  • Teaching practice


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