Wonder Matters for Education: Movements in Theory, Methods, and Practice



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The idea that wonder matters for education may seem obvious, as wonder is commonly associated with children’s delight in noticing and exploring the new. Focused attention on wonder in education theory and practice, however, has been minimal. The premise explored in this dissertation project is that an onto-epistemological tension between the nature of wonder and its relation to knowing, and the nature of knowing as promoted in schools resides at the heart of this problem. Further, the nature of knowing as promoted in schools reflects the dominant logics structuring western culture, logics contested for their limited perspectives on who and what matters, how knowledge is produced, and deficit views of difference. These same problematic logics work to regulate what counts as legitimate knowledge in the realm of education research itself, thus limiting the ways wonder has been studied. While wonder is receiving renewed attention for its educational value, and various strategies are being developed toward promoting wonder in schools, this project works to highlight how this onto-epistemological tension needs to be explicitly addressed alongside these efforts, if a focus on wonder in education is to be sustained. The central claim in this work is that the complexity of wonder and its relationship with knowing requires a matched complexity in the conceptual resources from which we make sense of it. The three manuscripts in this dissertation explore this issue through the development of experimental inquiry approaches and an expanded conceptualization of wonder inspired by relational process-oriented ontology. Working with the accounts of preservice teachers who navigated completing wonder assignments in a science methods course over time, wonder became analyzable as an attunement and thresholding phenomenon sensitive to the dynamic interplay between two co-composing dimensions of everyday events: the dimension of already formed structures and actualized beings, and the dimension of relational beings in the process of in-forming. The work of coming to conceptualize wonder in this manner is depicted in three manuscripts. The first manuscript, Still joy: A call for wonder(ing) in science education as anti-racist vibrant life-living employs the technique of poetically juxtaposing resonant snippets from theory, data, texts, conversations, photos, and a tragic cultural event to explore how under the influence of settler-colonial logics, both wonder and Black life, despite each involving generative and joyful movements, are deemed to be out-of-bounds and in need of being regulated and policed. The second manuscript, Wonder and the sensation of relation: An empirical exploration into the processual nature of wonder explores how a perplexing quality detected in the accounts of the preservice teachers initiated a turn to relational process philosophy for its vigorous and complex theorization of events. I demonstrate how working with these concepts led to the development of a more-than-representational analytic technique, poetic thresholding, and metamodeling of wonder as a thresholding process concerning affective attunement to an open and dynamic field of emerging relations. The third manuscript, Working for wonder in education: Lessons from preservice teachers’ experiences with wonder assignments in a science methods course is framed as a response to a call for a focus on teachers as critical actors in the promotion of wonder in schools The experiences of preservice teachers as they engaged with wonder assignments over time was documented and analyzed. Three key events were identified and re-presented, exposing a central epistemological tension between the transmission of a ‘right answers’ mode of knowing promoted in schools, and the creative and relational process of (be)coming-to-know involved in wondering. The aim of these three papers is to open up more expansive possibility thinking about wonder and education, while emphasizing the imperative of exposing and interrogating the onto-epistemological tension lurking at the heart of the matter.



Affect, Decolonization, Poetic inquiry, Science education, Teacher education, Wonder