Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, No.2, 208-216
Published Online April 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
The Potential of Photo-Talks to Reveal the Development of
Scientific Discourses
Cassie Quigley1, Gayle Buck2
1Teacher Education, Clemson University, Clemson, USA
2Curriculum and Ins t ruction, Indiana University, Bloomingt o n , USA
Received January 5th, 2012; revised February 15 th, 2012; accepted February 23rd, 2012
This study explores the potential of a photo-elicitation technique, photo-talks (Serriere, 2010), for under-
standing how young girls understand, employ and translate new scientific discourses. Over the course of a
nine week period, 24 kindergarten girls in an urban girls’ academy were observed, videotaped, photo-
graphed and interviewed while they were immersed into scientific discourse. This paper explicitly de-
scribes how their emerging discursive patterns were made visible through this methodological tool. The
findings are presented in vignettes in three themes uncovered during our analysis which are the following:
Presented the recollection of the scientific Discourse, Described the understanding of scientific Discourse,
and Created an opportunity for the translation into everyday discourse. Science educators can benefit
from this methodological tool as a reflective tool with their participants, to validate and/or complicate
data. Additionally, this methodological tool serves to make discourse patterns more visible by providing a
visual backdrop to the conversations thus revealing the development as it is occurring in young children.
Keywords: Photo-Elicitation; Photo-Talk; Science Education; Early Childhood Education
“The butterfly is in the chrysalis stage!” Victory exclaimed
during a photo-talks conversation as she pointed to a digital
photograph of herself looking at the brown chrysalis in the jar
on the lab bench, “It was an egg then it formed its chrysalis or
pupa and then it will become a butterfly”. When asked how she
would describe this to her friends she remarked, “It is like when
you go into the dressing room and put on a church dress-you
act like someone different”. In this example, Victory, a kinder-
gartener in an all-girls urban public school, translated the scien-
tific language taught to her into her own language through the
use of an innovative photo-elicitation tool, photo-talks (Serriere,
2010). This tool provided a reflective moment in a democratic
and non-threatening way while providing a visual backdrop of
digital photographs taken during science lessons. We posit this
tool helped Victory to integrate her new scientific discourses.
This opportunity to discuss scientific knowledge while main-
taining her discursive identity is too often missing in science
classrooms; particularly those of marginalized children (Brown,
2004, 2006; Gallas, 1995; Lee, 2001; Lemke, 2001). Several
researchers (e.g., Chin, 2006; Delpit, 1988; Hanrahan, 1999,
2005; Lemke, 1990) discovered these language practices further
distances marginalized students from science while providing
support for more privileged students. Equitable instruction and
assessment practises for diverse students involve consideration
of their cultural experiences and local discourse, which enable
them to connect with science and maintain their identities (Lee,
By allowing students to maintain these identities, there is
support for their funds of knowledge which include the knowl-
edge students’ gain from their culture, communities, familial,
and linguistic backgrounds they bring with them to school
(Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2005). The use of integrated dis-
courses provides both the context and the tools needed for so-
cial and cognitive development, a missing link between home
and school still remains (Boyne, 2003; Gallas, 1995; Gutierrez
et al., 1999; Hogan & Carey, 2001; Lee & Fradd, 1998; Moje et
al., 2001). Presently there is a global initiative of maintaining
worldviews, languages, and environments of which science
education can be a part (McKinley, 2007). Using the frame-
work of congruence and third space informed by worldview
theorists, we are seeking to understand the how and the extent
to which scientific discourse is incorporated into the funds of
knowledge of kindergarten girls in an urban all girls science
academy. We sought to uncover the discourses through the use
of photo-methodologies.
With this study, we sought to explore the potential of a digi-
tal photo-elicitation method, photo-talks (Serriere, 2010), for
understanding integrated discourses (Moje et al., 2001). The
objective of this paper is to share this photo-elicitation tech-
nique, photo-talks (Serriere, 2010) with science educators so
they may use it as an innovative methodological tool to under-
stand the construction of integrated discourses (Moje et al.,
Framework for Understanding Science
Discourse in Classrooms
Engaging in scientific discourse is often difficult for young
children as they are learning to articulate their own ideas in
written and spoken language. To frame this study, we follow
Lemke’s (1990) lead that views science as having a specialized
system of words that require a particular set of language de-
pendent on concepts and themes. Often, this specialized system
of words is not readily made available to the students and can
be difficult as they encounter new ways of talking, reading, and
writing. Moreover, school science requires students to integrate
the practises of prediction, observation, analysis, and presenta-
tion with science reading, writing, and language use (Lee &
Fradd, 1998). This ability to talk science has served as a gate-
keeper to the sciences for many students access to academic
success (Lemke, 1990). However research in elementary s cho ols
has demonstrated that students can understand and articulate
concepts such as observations, inferences, and predictions
through instruction that makes explicit connections to science
and allows the students to reflect (Akerson & Donnelly, in
press; Akerson & Volrich, 2006; Akerson, Hanson, & Cullen,
Studies of discourse in science offer a range of views and
provide examples of learning in science classrooms. These
discourse studies of classroom interaction revealed how science
is framed, who gets to speak in regard to science, and how is-
sues of language use encourage or hinder science learning. Yet,
even as science is made available to students through appropri-
ate discourse techniques, many of the studies found limited
participation and achievement of students talking science (Carl-
sen, 1997; Chin, 2006; Lee & Fradd, 1998; Lemke, 1990; Moje
et al., 2001; van Zee & Minstrell, 1997). This demonstrates a
continual problem for science education and a call for discourse
studies in science education with attention on congruence.
We utilize “Discourse”, with the upper-case “D”, to distin-
guish the use of the term from a mere stretch of language,
lower-case “d”, and “discourse”. Any stretch of language (dis-
course) is embedded in a particular way of knowing (Dis-
course). This way of knowing is linked to communities of prac-
tise (Lave & Wegner, 1991) in that certain people share genres
of language specialized for a smaller community (e.g., science
talk, football talk, music talk). For instance, scientists use
words such as, “cell”, “bar”, “force”, and “face” in very differ-
ent ways than a musician uses those same words. Thus, a regis-
ter is non-vernacular or often not a natural language for cultural
outsiders (Brown & Ryoo, 2009).
Following the lead of several scholars (e.g., Bhabha, 1994;
Gutierrez et al., 1999; Moje et al., 2004; Soja, 1996), we call
this integration of knowledges and Discourses (Moje et al.,
2004) from different spaces the construction of “third space”.
Third space blends the first space of home Discourse with the
second space of school Discourses. According to this frame-
work, third spaces are created when scientific and everyday
discourses are combined through authentic integration. By
validating everyday discourse, the students understand scien-
tific concepts and are able to incorporate them into their every-
day discourse (Moje et al., 2001).
Photo-Talks as a Means to Uncover How
Students Integrate Discourses
As sociologists using photo-elicitation discovered (Ewald,
1996, 2000; Ewald & Lightfoot, 2001; Kistler, 2005) using a
photograph instead of a question, particularly when the partici-
pant is the subject of that photograph, photo-methodology can
generate insightful and unexpected information from the inter-
viewees through reflection (Davis, 1998; Hyde, 2005). Similar
to both Photovoice (Wan g, 2005) and Interpersonal Recall (IPR)
(Kagan, 1980), this method, photo-talks (Serriere, 2010) is
meant to balance power between the researcher and participants
by allowing the participants control over the interview by stop-
ping the slideshow at any moment and comment on a photo.
Secondly, the participants can describe the moments to the
researcher or teacher, and render the data more complex. This
methodological tool is used as a way to remind students about
what happened, ask questions about these moments, and access
information about how they perceive the integration of dis-
courses into everyday language (Gutierrez, 2008; Moje et al.
2001). As well, photo-talks (Serriere, 2010) provides a tool to
understand the perspective of children who are learning to read,
write, and incorporate scientific discourse into their daily lives.
In this way, we extrapolate the potential of this methodological
tool for accessing young children’s knowledge of science words.
Presently, photo-talks are used in social studies education with
a primary focus on social reflection. We chose to work with this
particular methodological tool because of its ability to provide a
reflective component in a democratic and non-threatening way
while providing a visual cue to help the girls’ explain their use
of new and/or integrated discourses. Thus, in this paper, we
describe how photo-talks allowed us to gain understanding of
how these girls acquire and understand new scientific dis-
Timing and Duration of Study
To capture the everyday rituals and related discourses, we
were in a kindergarten classroom for approximately nine weeks
beginning in August with once a week follow-up visits for two
months ending in November. Researchers suggest that fluidity
and continuity in classrooms can be found in as little as three
weeks in the field (Cairns et al., 1995; Serriere, 2007), which
we were also able to find. We were in the classroom through
the completion of the first science unit, titled, “All about me/all
about my city”. The content of this unit is an integrated place-
based/problem based unit wherein the girls will le arn “all about
me”, which includes lessons on the human body (i.e. body parts,
functions of the parts, digestion) and a place-based component
titled, “all about my city”. In this component, the girls learned
what makes their city unique. The content of this component
included construction, understanding life cycles, season, water
quality, shapes, and measuring devices. During this time, the
girls visited local places sites. This unit was aligned to the state
standards meeting several standards across the curriculum (in-
cluding math, science, and language arts standards) with the
primary focus on science.
The enrollment of the District in which we worked was
12,731 students. The ethnic/racial composition was 97% Afri-
can American, 1% Multiracial, 1% Caucasian, 1% Latino.
Sixty-eight percent of the cooperation was free lunch, 30% paid,
and 2% reduced. The percentage passing the state test is 50.4%.
The graduation rate was 50.3% (IDOE, 2009). Within this dis-
trict, we concentrated on one school—Harmony Elementary
School. The majority of the 433 girls at the Harmony1 school
for science academy for girls2 live in one of the two public
housing developments within four blocks from the school. The
1The names of the school and participants are pseudonym s .
2The school became a gendered academy in 2004 as a part of a federal
restructuring mandate on the school.
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 209
student population of the school is 99% Black and 1% Multira-
cial. Additionally, 88% of the students qualify for free lunch.
The gendered academy is in its sixth year and initiated a sci-
ence focus for their academy. For the past five years, the school
has made Adequate Yearly Progress for reading and math in all
grade levels.
This study took place in one kindergarten classroom in this
school. The teacher was Ms. Sanchez. She taught kindergarten
for 17 years and at Harmony since it opened its doors in 2004.
There were 32 African American girls in her classroom through
September; however, the classroom had to be reduced to 24
girls to comply with state laws. The average age of the girls
was 5 years and 4 months at the beginning of the study. All of
the girls’ parents identified their racial background as African-
American. All of the girls gave assent to participate in the study
and to be photographed. All of the girls’ parents gave consent
to participate in the study, to have their children be photo-
graphed and to have these photographs published.
Data Collection
Over the span of 9 weeks, we observed, videotaped, photo-
graphed and interviewed girls in a kindergarten classroom (n =
24) at an all girls elementary school in an urban area. For this
paper, our primary focus is to understand how the use of
photo-elicitation, specifically photo-talks (Serriere, 2010), pro-
vided insight into the girls’ acquisition of new science dis-
courses. The other data sources: field notes/observation and
videotaped recordings of classroom instruction were used vali-
date or complicate the data gathered from photo-talks (Serriere,
2010). We present snippets of the responses to the photo-talks
to highlight the potential of the photo-methodology, rather than
findings. In this methodological tool, which Serriere adapted
from Photovoice (Wang, 2005) and Interpersonal Process Re-
call (IPR; Kagan, 1980), digital photographs were taken of a
variety of science moments. A slideshow of these moments was
created and the girls were shown the pictures, allowing them to
stop the slideshow at any picture. Once the student stops the
slideshow, time was given so the student could make comments
or ask questions about the particular picture. Following these
comments, as did Serriere (2010) in her research, we asked
questions about what the students were thinking or understand-
ing. The following is an explanation of the three-step process of
this methodological tool.
Step 1: We secured permissions and sought to minimize our
authority. After proper permissions were obtained from parents,
we told the children as a group that she would be taking photos
around the classroom and if they do not want their photograph
taken, they can tell us or their teacher and no one would be
upset with them. Once we began taking photographs, we sought
to be as unobtrusive as possible in their already occurring play
and work. Generally, we did not hold the camera to her face but
instead operated it from a small tripod sitting on a piece of fur-
niture. Moreover, as the classroom was well lit, using a flash
was rarely necessary. Still any adult presence with a camera
could undoubtedly impact students’ perceived freedom of
choice and create a presence of surveillance (Foucault, 1975). It
was imperative to our goal that we sought out not only the most
visible and audible groups of children, but also those that may
have less voice in science episodes. Moments of integrated
discourse were also of central importance to capture in deciding
what to photograph.
Step 2: We uploaded the photos. As each morning’s science
lesson came to a close so did our field notes, audio recording
and photography. We then immediately uploaded that day’s
photos onto the laptop and put them in a slideshow mode.
Step 3: We talked to the girls about their photos. At this point,
we invited children one-at-a-time to view the morning’s photo-
graphs in a slide show format. Depending on their duration, we
generally led one to three photo-talks per day. We first re-
minded the children that they could get up and leave at anytime
and no one would be upset with them. Some children immedi-
ately took us up on this offer and returned to other classroom
activities. Most children seemed to have a sincere interest in
looking and talking about the photos. We allowed children to
control the forward button on the slideshow so they could de-
termine the length of time they would focus on any one photo.
They generally looked and talked about five to seven photos in
one sitting, which took about three minutes. We used our field
notes to remind children about words and actions surrounding
the scene of a photograph. Some children spontaneously led us
to the scene displayed in the digital photo, as if they wanted us
to better understand what happened. At other times, we asked
questions about a photo they found intriguing (see Appendix 1
for example of questions).
Data Analysis
In order to understand the extent to which this methodologi-
cal tool is useful for understanding student discourse for sci-
ence educators, we analysed the data using Miles and Huber-
man’s (1994) open-coding technique. In this way, we coded to
understand the methodological tool’s potential. Utilizing this
technique, we coded the data into related data sets using key-
words (i.e. self-correcting of science words, blending new
words). After the data was coded using keywords, we gathered
the data into related collections (i.e. use of science words)
which later became nested collections or the three themes pre-
sented in this paper: Presents recollection of scientific Dis-
course, Describes understanding of scientific Discourse, and
Provides an opportunity for translation into everyday dis-
In this section, we present vignettes of the photo-talks in vivo.
The data is presented in snippets of the transcripts to allow the
reader to visualize how the photo-talks transpired, the questions
that we asked, the conversations that occurred between the girls
and us, and the language the girls used during photo-talks.
Presents Recollection of Scientific Discourse
This theme describes how the girls were able to recollect cer-
tain scientific Discourse via the photo-talks. Often, the girls
were able to use the words or invent their own pronunciation of
the words (i.e. “microscoper” for microscope). Other times, the
girls blended two words (i.e. the words, “pupa” and “caterpil-
lar” blend to become “caterpupa”; “magnifying glass” and “mi-
croscope” blend to become “magniscoper”). Similarly, the girls
used a word they had heard in class but were they were not
always used correctly. Through the use of photo-talks, we are
able to check the girls’ understanding of the words by showing
them a picture of a moment in which they used the word in
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
class and then ask questions about that moment in time. In this
segment, Victory describes to us how she used the word, “pol-
linating” but does not fully understand the word. The picture
(see Figure 1) was taken during a “station time” in which the
girls were reading about plants and the conversation we had
about it:
CQ: You like this picture?
V: Yes!
CQ: What were you doing in that picture?
V: Showing you that they are getting nectar.
CQ: Nectar? What is nectar?
V: Food.
CQ: Food for whom?
V: The butterflies and bees.
CQ: Okay, and you were telling me that they were pollinat-
ing. Do you know what pollinating means?
V: No.
CQ: No? But you were using that word, huh?
V: Yeah.
CQ: So where had you learned that word?
V: In class.
CQ: In class, who had taught you that word?
V: Mrs. Sanchez.
CQ: Oh, okay so you knew it had something to do with this
bee and the flower?
V: Yes.
Here, Victory was able to incorporate the scientific discourse
used by her teacher but not able to make meaning about this
word out of its context. This is interesting to note, that Victory
was able to use the word during class time but not during the
context of photo-talks. Through the use of photo-talks, we were
able to capture her use of this word, provide a prompt for recall
of this moment, and ask her about it. What is important to note
is that Victory understood some aspects of pollination and was
able to use the word correctly even though she does not fully
grasp the concept of pollination.
Another way photo-talks presented the recollection of scien-
tific discourse was when the girls attempted to use the new
words. In a conversation with Shauntaysia (see Figure 2), we
discovered that the girls would blend or invent new words even
though they conceptually understood the science word:
CQ: You wanna tell me about that picture? [Shauntaysia
nods] Okay, what do you wanna tell me?
S: I was lookinat the signs in the glasses, and I see a sight.
CQ: What was that glasses thing called?
S: Reindeer.
CQ: No. I mean that thing that, the tool that you were lookin
through, whats that called?
S: Magniscoper.
CQ: Almost. A magnifying glass. Do you know what a mag-
nifying glass is? What did it help you do?
S: It helped you to see somethin bigger.
In this example, Shauntaysia conceptually understood what a
magnifying glass was as she descri bed it as, “it helped you see
somethin’ bigger” and called it a “magniscoper”. Here, we
understood what she meant and asked her about its use. In this
way, photo-talks presented recollections of scientific Discourse
(including understanding of these words) by providing the girls
with a way to visibly discuss these words and ideas. By em-
Figure 1.
Victory shows me a book and tells me “they are pollinating”.
Figure 2.
Shauntaysia lookin g through the magnify ing glass.
ploying Gee’s conception of upper-case Discourse in combina-
tion with the photo-elicitation technique, we see the girls learn-
ing new Discourse even though they confuse, blend or invent
new words when attempting to discuss these words.
Describes an Understand in g of Scientific Discourse
In this theme, Describes an understanding scientific Dis-
course, photo-talks shed light on the girls’ knowledge of new
words. Photo-talks provided a space for insights into the girls’
comprehension of scientific Discourse. Additionally, this meth-
odological tool provided us with a tool to help the girls with
recall of what happened in class.
In this segment, Mrs. Sanchez was teaching the girls about
composting at the same time as she was teaching about plants.
She hoped the compost would be able to turn to soil and the
girls would be able to add it to the indoor vegetable garden they
created. In this segment, Victory describes the definition of a
new science word, “germinate”. During the classroom instruc-
tion, we witnessed a conversation between Victory and Mrs.
Sanchez about re-planting Victory’s plant (see Figure 3) be-
cause her seed did not germinate. Later, we spoke with Victory
about the conversation:
CQ: Okay, so lets look at all the pictures first and then you
can tell me which is your favourite picture of you. Okay?
V: This one!
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 211
Figure 3.
Victory is planting a new seed because her previous seed did not ger-
CQ: You like that one? Why do you like that one?
V: Because Im putting a seed in the pot.
CQ: You are putting the seed in there. And why did you have
to put the seed in there again?
V: Because uh, the first one wasnt growing.
CQ: So, here Mrs. Sanchez is looking at your shovel at the
seed. And she said to you, That seed, your seed didnt germi-
nate. And you shook your head and said, No. Do you know
what germinate means?
V: Grow.
During this segment of photo-talks, we were able to remind
Victory, what happened in the class. Victory was able to de-
scribe the word “germinate” as “grow”. During the classroom
instruction, she demonstrated her knowledge of this word when
responding to her teacher’s question about whether or not her
seed germinated. By capturing this moment and interviewing
her with photo-talks, we were able to discover if she understood
the word, “germinate” or if she was attempting to placate the
teacher by nodding. In this way, this methodological tool un-
covers an important component of discourse acquisition-use
and recollection of words.
Similarly as the girls grappled with difficult science words,
their understanding was demonstrated through this methodo-
logical tool. In the following example (see Figure 4), Kimberly
demonstrated her understanding of the lifecycle of the butterfly
but was confused about compost. She described compost as
something that the butterflies eat:
CQ: And how did they become butterflies?
KB: They first they were a caterpillar and then they kept eat-
ing and eating and then they turned into they chrysalis and then
one came into a butterfly and then the rest of them came.
CQ: Okay and what were they eating?
KB: Compost.
In this example, we were able to witness Kimberly’s under-
standing of how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly but also
hear her confusion with what compost is and how it was related
to the butterfly lesson. Later (see Figure 5), she went on to
describe her understanding of compost as:
CQ: Kimberly, will you tell me about what went inside the
KB: Yes.
Figure 4.
Kimberly (far left) with classmates looking at the chrysalises.
Figure 5.
Kimberly (in bac k) l ooki ng i nto the compost bin.
CQ: What did you put inside there?
KB: Grapes, potato peels, paper, newspaper, coffee grounds.
But we didnt put any cheese in there-cause you know it would
rot and stuff.
Her understanding of what did and did not belong in the
compost bin was clear and her ability to articulate this under-
standing was demonstrated during our photo-talk. In this way,
this methodological tool highlighted her understanding of the
word, “compost” but also described moments of confusion the
girls have during their process of language acquisition.
In another example, photo-talks presented the girls’ ability to
use integrated discourses. In a lesson about metamorphosis,
Sharelle pointed at the tadpoles and discovers one no longer has
a tail (see Figure 6). She exclaimed during the class, “It is a
frog now. It is a frog!” During the photo-talks interview, she
asked to look at this picture and wondered how the tadpoles
turned into frogs. During this discussion, she came to her own
decision about the lifecycle of a frog and used integrated dis-
courses to describe the process:
S: How do tadpoles grow into frogs?
I: Youve been watching them in class. So, what did you no-
S: I noticed that they look like donuts but they are all gath-
ered up into a like, uh, sticky jelly like jelly donuts and then
when they crack open they will be tadpoles and then it grows
front legs and back legs and then moves its tail and then it
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
Figure 6.
Sharelle pointing at the tadpoles.
looses its tail and then it become a frog.
I: Okay alright that is great.
Here, Sharelle was able to use the language that was avail-
able to her to describe the lifecycle stages between eggs, tad-
poles, and frogs. While she may not have had all of the techni-
cal vocabulary, she was able to talk about the process in her
own words using analogies such as the fish eggs looking like
jelly donuts. We posit that through the use of photo-talks she
was able to reflect on this moment. It provided her with another
opportunity to challenge her own thinking about the lifecycle of
In another example, we talked with Talia and we learned
how she understood pollunation and some of the parts of a but-
terfly (see Figure 7). During this class session, in which the
girls were going outside to visit their butterflies that they had
released earlier that week, we took a picture of Talia and her
classmates running towards the grass.
In the photo-talks interview, she described her understand-
ings of the butterfly’s proboscis. Although she used the word
“straw” to describe it, through this conversation, she describes
this anatomy using her own words:
CQ: Okay and here you were running out. What were you
running out to go see?
T: The butterflies.
CQ: Oh, did you see any butterflies?
T: Yeah and some of them went to go get nectar but Nikaya
had swatted it. She made the butterflies go away.
CQ: What does nectar mean?
T: Nectar means honey.
CQ: And where do you find nectar?
T: In the flower.
CQ: Where in the flower-
T: It is deep down and my cousin, she had gotten honey on
my nose.
CQ: Oh my goodness. And so how does the butterfly eat the
T: It has a little straw and it goes down into the flower and
then it gets nectar.
CQ: Do you know what that thing is called that long part is
T: It is called, a mouth.
While “proboscis” is the accurate scientific word, “straw”
Figure 7.
Talia and her class ru nning after the butterflies.
also indicates that Talia understood the purpose of this structure
to remove the nectar. Considering proboscis is not a word her
teacher had used in the classroom, Talia had used the words she
had available to her and was able to describe the anatomy of the
butterfly. Through the use of this photo-elicitation technique,
we were able to check her understanding this word while pro-
vide her with a way she could talk to us about her language
An Opportunity for Translation into Everyday
In this theme, we discovered photo-talks not only revealed
the girls’ emerging discourses, but also provided them with the
opportunity to translate new scientific discourse into their own
As a part of her observational focus, Mrs. Sanchez covered
lifecycles of a variety of objects throughout the year. One of her
favourite lessons was the lifecycle of the caterpillar. She bought
caterpillars from an online store and encouraged the girls to
observe their different stages. Then once they morphed into
butterflies, she allowed the girls to release the butterflies. On
this particular day, the girls noticed a change in the caterpil-
lar—it had turned into a pupa. The girls crowded around the
vented plastic container for a look. The girls were making ob-
servations about it. In this segment, Victory asked us to stop on
this picture of her and her friends looking at the chrysalis. Dur-
ing the interview (see Figure 8), she described to us how she
would describe the life cycle of the butterfly to her friends.
CQ: You want me to stop here?
V: Yes.
CQ: What are you doing here?
V: Looking at the chrysalis.
CQ: Can you tell me where the caterpillar is?
V: In there (pointing to the jar). First they were a caterpillar
then they formed a chrysalis and then they turned into a butter-
CQ: Okay and tell me about that chrysalis. What does
chrysalis mean?
V: Like a pupa.
CQ: What did it look l i ke? What did the chrysalis look like?
V: Gray.
CQ: What is a chrysalis?
V: It was an egg then it formed its chrysalis or pupa and then
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 213
Figure 8.
Victory and classmates looking at the jar with the chrysalis.
it will become a butterfly. It is like a dressing room.
CQ: Like a dressing room? How would you describe this to
your friends?
V: It is like when you go into the dressing room and put on a
church dress, you act like someone different.
CQ: And that is what the butterflies were doing? When the
caterpillars are changing into the butterflies? I like that exam-
ple. That is a really good way to describe that Victory. Did you
think of that all by yourself?
V: Yes.
In this example, Victory was not only able to define the life
stages of a butterfly but also translate the scientific discourse
into her own language. As she described the caterpillar morph-
ing into the butterfly, she used the analogy of changing into a
church dress. Although certainly there were misconceptions
revealed here, what we found important was that Victory was
able to make the comparison of the caterpillar’s life of becom-
ing a butterfly and when you put on a church dress, “you act
like someone else”. This ability to use analogies is a critical
factor in children’s learning of language and content. It not only
speaks to cursory understanding but a transfer of knowledge
that often leads to success in solving problems (Brown, Kane,
& Long, 1989). Similarly it speaks to Victory’s ability to feel
comfortable using the discourse available to her to describe a
scientific phenomenon. Photo-talks helped to demonstrate Vic-
tory’s ability to use discourse with and/or without meaning and
create analogies when translating the knowledge into everyday
discourse. This ability is a key component of Third Space con-
struction. Additionally, integrated discourses provide both the
context and the tools needed for social and cognitive develop-
ment (Brown, 2004, 2006; Brown & Ryoo, 2008; Brown, Gray,
& Henderson, 2009; Hogan & Corey, 2001; Lee & Fradd, 1998;
Moje et al., 2001).
Being able to readily translate the words into everyday dis-
course was also uncovered through the use of photo-talks. In
the following example (see Figure 9), Macy was able to de-
scribe the process of composting to us in her own words while
also using the scientific discourse.
CQ: And um can you tell me what that is right there?
M: Ummm, (pause) It is uh, it is soil.
CQ: Is it soil yet?
M: No.
CQ: Nope. What is in there right now?
M: Uh a worm and and compost.
CQ: What does compost mean?
Figure 9.
Macy and her classm a t e s t o uc h i n g t h e c ompost.
M: Garbage but it is not the stinky garbage it the peelings,
you know like the peelings off the banana and orange and
grape and apple.
During our conversation, she was able to clarify that it is not
soil yet and described it as similar to garbage but not “stinky
garbage”. Through this interview technique, the picture allowed
her to be reminded of what the compost looked like, she de-
scribed it to us and was allowed time for clarification. In this
lesson on composting, Mrs. Sanchez helped the girls to under-
stand scientific concepts such as composting as a process of
transformation. As we document the discourse in the classroom
that incorporates third space construction, we were drawn to
these moments where the girls were understanding science
concepts, translated these ideas into their own words, but were
still teetering between first and second spaces such as Macy’s
description of compost as “not stinky garbage” but conceptually
understanding it is different from the garbage she is familiar.
These moments of discourse documented in this classroom help
to demonstrate that moments of congruence are not always a
perfect blend of the two spaces but representative of both
(Bhabha, 1997).
As a result of the photo-talks, we were able to follow the
girls’ language acquisition, which we could ultimately use to
explore and promote Third Space construction in their class-
room. In this way, these conversations are one tool that re-
searchers can use to describe Third Space construction from the
students’ point of view.
Habashi (2005) encourages child researchers to be cautious
about unpacking children’s narratives about the world around
them, watching out not to impose personal perspectives on
complex situations and instead making every effort to decon-
struct the child’s voice and vision before inserting one’s own.
These suggestions challenged us to explore a broader array of
data collection and data analyses options; allowing us to ex-
plore the many ways in which children communicate. Not im-
posing personal perspectives on complex situations, such as
language acquisition of young, African American girls, is an-
other reason to listen to their voices, and use photos to elicit
thoughts on the world around them.
These moments of discourse documented in this classroom
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s .
help to demonstrate that moments of congruence are not always
a perfect blend of the two spaces but representative of both first
and second spaces (Bhabha, 1997). As the girls become more
comfortable with their new words, they are creating new
knowledge and discourse. Sometimes these discourses are more
integrated (i.e. Victory describing the metamorphosis of a but-
terfly as a dressing room) which represent the integrated dis-
courses that Moje et al. (2001) document.
Photo-talks were able to render our data more complex. For
example, when Victory speaks the new science word in class
“pollinating” (see Figure 1), but is not able to describe the
word to us in the photo-talks conversation, we were able to see
what words she was having difficulty adding to her register.
Without the use of photo-talks, we might have assumed she
understood the word when she correctly identified the word and
described it to her peer. However, during the conversation the
complexity of her understanding was revealed: while she could
use the word correctly, she still had difficulty describing its
meaning. While Victory was able to use the science word in the
second space, the science lab; she was having difficulty trans-
lating the word into her everyday discourse. In this example,
congruent Third Space for Victory was not yet achieved.
Secondly, when Shauntaysia names a magnifying glass as a
“magniscoper” without the ability to probe deeper, we might
have assumed she did not understand what a magnifying glass
was. However, she conceptually describes it as “something that
makes things bigger” and blended two new words, “magnifying
glass” and “microscope”. Both new words and new science
tools they were using in the science lab. Photo-talks allow sci-
ence educators to recognize students’ understandings rather
than see how they are wrong or incorrect. Thus, photo-talks add
a layer of reflection on the third space and a way for teachers to
understand students’ use but also a way for researchers to ac-
cess it.
Additionally, photo-talks allowed us to witness the girls us-
ing the scientific discourse. Bhabha (1994) discusses making
words “one’s own” and we posit through this methodological
tool, it provides another space for the girls’ to practise incorpo-
rating the new words into their vernacular (p. 293). Moreover,
this reflection time, allow the girls to dip into the third space
again and become constructors of this space. In this way, the
photos provide a backdrop to ask questions about their under-
standings of this Discourse.
Through the use of this methodological tool, we found the
conservations to be directed by the girls and insightful into their
learning of their new and/or integrated discourses. Through the
use of photo-talks, we gained an understanding of the girls’
language acquisition and Third space construction. In this way,
these conversations are one tool that researchers can use to
describe third space construction from the students’ point of
view. Additionally, conversations around photographs allowed
for different types of data that both confirmed and served as
anomalies in comparison to field notes, video observation, and
teacher interviews. Overall, this methodological tool provided
us a way to check initia l interp retations on third space construc-
tion and acquisition of science discourse in a kindergarten
classroom. In this way, science educators can benefit from this
methodological tool as a reflective tool with their participants,
to validate and/or complicate their data.
The majority of the science discourse research continues to
be focused on one particular space: either scientific or instruc-
tional discourse. However, in order to understand how students
integrate this knowledge in their daily lives and truly teach
science to all, we must include the other aspects that contribute
to authentic science learning through congruence. In order to
create congruent learning spaces in science, students must be
able to maintain their identities, language, and worldviews by
allowing students to translate scientific discourse into their
everyday language and photo-talks is a methodological tool that
can enable researchers to document these spaces.
As our science classrooms continue to become linguistically
diverse and increasingly complex, it is becoming more difficult
to prepare teachers to attend to the language needs of all stu-
dents (Lee & Fradd, 1998; United States Census Bureau, 2000).
As science educators, we must be able to help educators create
spaces that encourage third space construction so that these
marginalized students can succeed in science. By providing
educators with ways to integrate scientific and everyday dis-
courses, we can help achieve this goal. Photo-talks is one
methodological tool that helps to remove power issues during
research and provide a way to visualize these third space mo-
ments through conversations with students.
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Appendix 1
Script: I am going to show you some pictures of your class.
You can stop me at any time to look at a picture again or ask
any questions. I am just going to ask your ideas about what was
happening. There are no right or wrong answers. At any time,
you can stop me and tell me that you do not want to do this any
more and no one will be upset with you.
1) What was your favorite picture of you? Why?
2) Looking at this picture, what were you doing here?
3) Why were you doing that?
4) What do you think you learned while doing this?
5) Here, your teacher said, “…” What did that mean to you?
6) Did you understand the word “…”? What does that word
mean to you?
7) Here, you said, “…” Would you like to add anything to
8) If you were to describe to your friend, what you were do-
ing here, what would you say?
9) Have you heard anyone outside of school, like a parent,
brother or sister, use the word, “…”? What were they talking
10) What about on television or in movies? Who do you hear
using these science words that your teacher used today?
11) Is there anybody you know who does not use words like
this? Why not?
12) Looking at this picture, were you enjoying/not enjoying
what you were doing? Why?
13) Think of one memory you have of <context of investiga-
tion>. Tell me about it.
14) Thinking back to <context of investigation>, what do
you remembe r?
15) What did the other people do during this time?
16) If there was one thing you would say about that event it
would be…
17) How would you describe how this made you <act, feel,
understand other words> during other times?
18) Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?
19) Did I miss anything.