College of Education Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Winter 3-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Advisor

Jason Goulah

Second Advisor

Jeffrey Kuzmic


The purpose of this literature review is to investigate the work of Russian philosopher and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin (1895 – 1975), and more specifically, how his theories on language in a social context apply to science education. In response to ongoing concerns regarding declining student achievement in the sciences, this paper follows a growing trend to integrate perspectives from the fields of language, anthropology and sociology, in order to reform science instruction and improve student scientific literacy. Bakhtin’s major theories around dialogue, and his views on the celebration of carnival, are presented through an analysis of secondary resources that apply some of his well-known literary works to the classroom. The underlying theme of these theories, that of learning made possible through dialogic interaction, leads the discussion for application of Bakhtin’s theories to the classroom. An extensive review of available literature that studies Bakhtin’s theories, and literature that indirectly references dialogue and carnival as pedagogical tools, are all synthesized and then analyzed in an attempt to demonstrate their effectiveness in the science classroom. Concluding the paper is a summary of common themes, suggestions for how science curriculum should be structured, and implications for science education.