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Analyzing discourse and identity in physics education: Methodological considerations
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics. Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Gender Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8180-5369
2016 (English)In: 2016 Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings / [ed] Dyan L. Jones, Lin Ding, and Adrienne L. Traxler, American Association of Physics Teachers , 2016, p. 180-183Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Physics Education Research has for a long time primarily been concerned with helping students to learn physics and to “think like a physicist.” This paper explores the emerging subfield where students’ identity development is analyzed to examine processes of “becoming a physicist” in a wider sense. Drawing on sociocultural theories and methodologies, and specifically analyzing identity and discourse, I focus on what happens when students with differing outlooks on physics encounter advanced physics courses. A discourse analytical framework allows one to inquire into the messages about “who one should be as a physicist” communicated to students during courses. This enables a discussion of what physicist identities are made possible for physics students. In this way, a discourse perspective can be one way of analyzing identities in physics without taking the norms of the discipline for granted.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
American Association of Physics Teachers , 2016. p. 180-183
Series
PERC Proceedings, ISSN 1539-9028
National Category
Physical Sciences Gender Studies Educational Sciences
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-312152DOI: 10.1119/perc.2016.pr.040ISI: 000393035800043ISBN: 9781931024303 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-312152DiVA, id: diva2:1062339
Conference
Physics Education Research Conference (PERC) 2016, July 20-21, 2016, Sacramento, CA, USA
Available from: 2017-01-05 Created: 2017-01-05 Last updated: 2018-08-19Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The formation of successful physics students: Discourse and identity perspectives on university physics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The formation of successful physics students: Discourse and identity perspectives on university physics
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In university physics education, unequal student participation has always been an issue. An example is the fact that men constitute 70–80% of the student body in most countries. In recent years, physics education research has started to explore issues of participation, diversity, and identity, but more research and theoretical and methodological development is needed. The work presented in this thesis adopts a discursive perspective on students’ physics identity, building on developments in gender studies and related fields. Focusing on several important steps in physics education, the study explores what it means to become a physicist by asking how norms about being a successful physics student are constructed in the discourses of the education. The methodology is qualitative and interpretative, using participant observation and interviews to explore classroom discourse and student narratives. These theoretical and methodological tools combined with a detailed focus on physics education practice, provide a framework for a deeper understanding of identity in physics. A general conclusion of this study is that physics courses, when taught from a narrow physics perspective, may limit the possibilities for identification for many students. For example, engineering students on less physics-oriented programmes had difficulties seeing electromagnetism as significant for their vocational identity. Similar results occurred in quantum mechanics, where a strong focus on calculating can alienate some students. Concurrent with the particular appeal that quantum mechanics can have in attracting students to physics, a mismatch between expectations and course practice can cause an identity crisis for students investing in an identity as a quantum physicist. For physics master’s students, finding a place in physics meant negotiating norms about intelligence and “nerdiness”. These common and gendered stereotypical attributions for physicists took on specific significance in relation to subject choice in physics. More theoretical and pure physics directions were implicitly accorded higher status and seen as requiring more intelligence, but at the same time could also be positioned as more nerdy. The study’s outcomes provide input to physics instructors and departments who want to develop more inclusive and diverse physics education, as well as theoretical and methodological resources for further research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2018. p. 139
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1706
National Category
Physical Sciences Educational Sciences Gender Studies
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-357341 (URN)978-91-513-0413-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-10-05, Häggsalen, 10132, Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-09-13 Created: 2018-08-19 Last updated: 2018-10-02

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