Term of Award

Spring 2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)


Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

John A. Weaver

Committee Member 1

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 2

James C. Jupp

Committee Member 3

David Blades


This dissertation is a theoretical inquiry into alternative pedagogies that challenge current standardized practices in the field of science education. Building upon a wide array of work, such as philosophy and history of science (Haraway, 1989, 1991,1997, 2000, 2007; Harding 1991, 1998; Latour, 1987, 1991/1993, 1991; Rheinberger, 1992, 2010; Serres, 1982/2007,1991/1997, 2010/2012), curriculum studies and science curriculum (Appelbaum, 2001, 2010; Barone, 1990, 2000; Blades, 1997, 2001; Calabrese-Barton, 2003, 2011; Cartwright, 1999; Doll, 1993; Grumet, 1999; He, 2003,2008, 2009,2013; Lather, 1997,2007,2010; Schubert, 1986, 2009; Schwab, 1978; Weaver, 2001, 2004, 2010, 2015); and playwriting (Brody, 2011; Innes, 2002; and Mighton, 1987, 1988), I explore how the stories of Henrietta Lacks become part of a conspiracy to change science education. Conversations directly involving Henrietta Lacks were inspired by the writings of Hannah Landecker (1999, 2000, 2007), Rebecca Skloot (2010), and Priscilla Wald (2012a, 2012b).

I create imaginary dialogues which serve as the theoretical framework for each chapter. Each chapter unfolds in a form of a play with imaginary settings and events that bring Henrietta Lacks back from the grave to participate in conversations about science, society and social justice. I interweave my personal experience and the experiences of my students with the stories of Henrietta Lacks and her famous HeLa cells. The conversations are based on the researcher’s experiences in graduate courses, direct quotations from philosophers of science, historians of science, science educators, and curriculum theorists, and use of the story of Henrietta Lacks in a high school biology classroom. Commentary follows each Act in the play. The play describes the journey of a graduate student/high school teacher as she researches the importance of the philosophy of science, history of science, science curriculum and social justice in science education. Through reflections on the created conversations, the role of the story of Henrietta Lacks is examined and described in multiple settings, beginning in an imaginary academic meeting and ending with student conversations in a classroom. Each setting provides a space for conversation participants to explore their personal connections with science, science curriculum, issues of social justice related to science, and Henrietta Lacks. Through my dissertation inquiry, I call for a multidimensional science curriculum that contests a linear standardized science curriculum, builds upon philosophy of science and history of science, and acts upon social justice through the telling and sharing of the story of Henrietta Lacks.