Discourse genres and children agency in everyday family science engagement

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Accumulating evidence underscores the imperative role of family discourse in supporting children's engagement with science and, in turn, children's science learning. However, little research explores children's roles and agency in everyday family discourse in various unstructured settings. This study explores discourse genres, which are routine ways of using language for particular purposes. I examined what discourse genres one family employed to engage with science and how these genres supported or hindered the children's agentic engagement. By analyzing audio recordings obtained over a year of self-ethnography and employing linguistics ethnography methods, I characterized seven discourse genres: (1) scientific exploration; (2) classroom; (3) ask-the-expert; (4) wildlife viewing; (5) guided reading; (6) sports broadcasting; and (7) magic trick. The analysis demonstrates how the enactment of genres allowed family members to recruit resources from science and other domains to support science engagement for themselves and others. The findings illustrate how children exercised epistemic agency by introducing certain genres, taking agentic roles within genres (navigating the inquiry process, regulating the focus of conversation, creating shared object of attention), and undermining genres parents introduce. The study suggests more attention should be paid to genres in everyday family science discourse and children's roles and agency in them.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100649
JournalLearning, Culture and Social Interaction
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Discourse genres
  • Epistemic agency
  • Family learning
  • Informal science learning
  • Parent–child interaction
  • Self-ethnography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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