Do beliefs about science limit access to the science discourse community? The evidence of laboratory sessions

  • Ralph Adendorff Linguistics Programme, University of Natal, Durban 4041, South Africa
  • Jean Parkinson Faculty of Science, University of Natal, Durban 4041, South Africa


While the shortage of black South Africans who are qualified in the sciences and applied sciences is severe, political changes have already begun to provide fairer access to tertiary study in these fields. Examining the role of subtler and more widely spread societal attitudes that limit access to the science discourse community, we suggest that, although necessary, political changes are not sufficient to provide wide access. Focusing on the experience of first year laboratory sessions by six students and the discourse pertinent to them, we investigate the beliefs and attitudes that the students bring to their laboratory sessions. We examine the ideologies inherent in two approaches to laboratory sessions: one which stresses efficiency in the following of instructions and the performance of key laboratory procedures, the other which stresses acquisition of the thinking skills necessary for investigative research. Our article provides evidence that the first approach confirms while the second undermines certain beliefs about science. We contend that these beliefs limit access to the discourse community of science.

(S/ern Af Linguistics & Applied Language Stud: 2001 19(3&4): 133-147)

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614