Learning to Become a Scientist in Chile: Conflicting and Coexisting Views of Practicing Science from Eight Chilean Graduate Students in the Life Sciences

By Marta Silva and Andrew Sigerson.

Published by The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 17, 2015 $US5.00

A considerable amount of research has been devoted to understanding how young people learn and engage with science effectively; however, little is known about how young adults persist in their ambitions of pursuing science academically and eventually becoming scientists. This study describes the process by which eight Chilean graduate students have been socialized in the life sciences from early childhood to adulthood. The life story interview approach was used to explore the students’ experiences from their own perspectives across their lifespans. The qualitative analysis showed that the eight graduate students were socialized from early ages in formal and informal learning settings. This process occurred by learning two concepts of science: the “open-public” science, a generalized and narrower view of science that is commonly presented to the general public, and the “closed-private” science, a behind-the-scenes view of science as it is actually practiced (Elkana 2000). These concepts were learned through three main life stages: (1) the childhood stage in formal and informal learning situations, characterized by curiosity and inquisitiveness about different phenomena as well as viewing science as a fun and interesting activity guided by the objectivity of the scientific method; (2) the high school and undergraduate stage at which the “closed-private” aspects of science were first encountered, leading to “science culture shock”; and (3) the graduate level stage in which students continued learning the “closed-private” view while practicing science in a laboratory. Further research and implications are provided.

Keywords: Learning Science, Graduate Education, Life Stories

The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education, Volume 22, Issue 4, December, 2015, pp.49-63. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 17, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 816.829KB)).

Marta Silva

Assistant Professor, Institute of Philosophy and Educational Studies, Southern University of Chile (Universidad Austral de Chile), Valdivia, Chile

Andrew Sigerson

Southern University of Chile, Department of Linguistics and Literature, UACh, Valdivia, Region de Los Rios, Chile