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A new approach to modelling student retention through an application of complexity thinking
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics. (Physics Education Research, Fysikens didaktik)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics. (Physics Education Research, Fysikens didaktik)
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2014 (English)In: Studies in Higher Education, ISSN 0307-5079, E-ISSN 1470-174X, Vol. 39, no 1, p. 68-86Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Complexity thinking is relatively new to education research and has rarely been used to examine complex issues in physics and engineering education. Issues in higher education such as student retention have been approached from a multiplicity of perspectives and are recognized as complex. The complex system of student retention modelling in higher education was examined to provide an illustrative account of the application of complexity thinking in educational research. Exemplar data was collected from undergraduate physics and related engineering students studying at a Swedish university. The analysis shows how complexity thinking may open up new ways of viewing and analysing complex educational issues in higher education in terms of nested, interdependent and interconnected systems. Whilst not intended to present new findings, the article does illustrate a possible representation of the system of items related to student retention and how to identify such influential items.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2014. Vol. 39, no 1, p. 68-86
National Category
Physical Sciences
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-170290DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2011.643298ISI: 000337178800006OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-170290DiVA, id: diva2:508914
Available from: 2012-03-10 Created: 2012-03-10 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Complexity Theory and Physics Education Research: The Case of Student Retention in Physics and Related Degree Programmes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Complexity Theory and Physics Education Research: The Case of Student Retention in Physics and Related Degree Programmes
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores the use of complexity theory in Physics Education Research as a way to examine the issue of student retention (a university’s ability to retain its students). University physics education is viewed through the concepts of nestedness and networked interactions. The work presented in this thesis covers two main aspects from a complexity theory perspective: (1) institutional action to enhance student retention; and, (2) the role of students’ in-course interaction networks. These aspects are used to reframe student retention from a complexity theory perspective, as well as to explore what implications this new perspective affords. The first aspect is addressed by conceptualizing student retention as an emergent phenomenon caused by both agent and component interaction within a complex system. A methodology is developed to illustrate a networked visualization of such a system using contemporary estimation methods. Identified limitations are discussed. To exemplify the use of simulations of complex systems, the networked system created is used to build a simulation of an “ideal” university system as well as a Virtual world for hypothesis-testing. The second aspect is divided into two sections: Firstly, an analysis of processes relating to how students’ in-course networks are created is undertaken. These networks are divided into two relevant components for student retention – the social and the academic. Analysis of these two components of the networks shows that the formation of the networks is not a result of random processes and is thus framed as a function of the core constructs of student retention research – the social and academic systems. Secondly, a case is made that students’ structural positions in the social and academic networks can be related to their grade achievement in the course.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2015. p. 185
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1273
Keyword
Physics Education Research, Complexity Theory, Student Retention
National Category
Didactics Other Physics Topics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-259413 (URN)978-91-554-9303-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-10-02, Häggsalen (Å10132), Ångströmlaboratoriet, Uppsala, 09:00 (English)
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Supervisors
Available from: 2015-09-11 Created: 2015-08-03 Last updated: 2015-10-01

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