Purdue University Graduate School
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The Affordances of Laughter in an Afterschool STEM Program for Multilingual Learners

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posted on 2019-08-16, 16:45 authored by Casey Elizabeth WrightCasey Elizabeth Wright

All though laughter is traditionally thought of as divergent from the goals of science learning, this perspective seems to be a cursory assumption about which little empirical evidence is provided. Taking a situated and embodied approach to learning, this study details the affordances of laughter in an afterschool STEM program for resettled Burmese refugee high school youth. The informal learning setting in the afterschool program provides a space where laughter is often present, yet the meanings of laughter in these settings are not well understood. Through micro analysis of video data collected from the afterschool setting, three interactions between youth and facilitators in the setting were examined to investigate the work that youth’s laughter does in the moment to challenge insular concepts of science discourse. Interaction ritual analysis was used theorize the examined interactions’ connections to other moments in the learning setting. In doing so, the affordances of laughter were found to be its work in generating solidarity, democratizing power relations, and providing ways to deal with uncertainty in science. Overall, findings from this research indicate that the informal learning context and responsive pedagogy provided important localities for youth to draw on their resources and they do so even in seemingly insignificant moments along the margins of what is traditionally considered to be science discourse.


National Science Foundation #1612688


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Chemistry

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Minjung Ryu

Additional Committee Member 2

George M. Bodner

Additional Committee Member 3

Allison F. Godwin

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