Partnerships between scientists and students have a long history (John-Steiner, 2000; Pycior, Slack, & Abir-Am, 1996; Tinker, 1997). Typically, through joint activity over prolonged periods of time, old and new ways of thinking are being developed. Given the recognition that “generative ideas emerge from joint thinking, from significant conversations, and from sustained, shared struggles to achieve new insights by partners in thought” (John-Steiner, 2000, p. 3), such models of education also figure prominently in current reform-oriented educational efforts (e.g., Barab & Duffy, 2000; Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Collins, Brown, & Holum, 1991; Hennessy, 1993; Lave, 1996; Lave & Wenger, 1991; McGinn & Roth, 1999; Richmond & Kurth, 1999). Yet there is a paucity of research on how such ways of knowing and becoming are perceived by students and how they come to influence students' future endeavors.
A second area of concern centers on the low rates of participation of students from different ethnic, racial, cultural, and socioeconomic groups in science and mathematics disciplines, hereafter referred to collectively as underrepresented students. Much has been published on these disparities and the putative reasons behind them (Atwater, 2000; Mortensen, 1995; Oakes, Muir, & Joseph, 2000; Steele, 1997; Tobin, Seiler, & Walls, 1999). Against this backdrop are myriad programs that involve creative collaborations aimed at exposing underrepresented students to the cultures of science and mathematics in the hopes of encouraging these students to pursue careers in these disciplines.