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Fostering Disciplinary Literacy? South African Physics Lecturers' Educational Responses to their Students' Lack of Representational Competence
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)
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa.
2014 (English)In: African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, ISSN 1028-8457, Vol. 18, no 3, 242-252 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Recently, the South African Institute of Physics undertook a major review of university physics education. The report highlighted the necessity for further transformation of the teaching of physics, particularly in relation to the teaching of under-prepared students. In this article we examine how physics lecturers in South Africa reported how they respond to the teaching challenges that they face in terms of representational competence. We argue that the goal of any undergraduate degree is the production of disciplinary literate graduates, where disciplinary literacy refers to the ability to competently deal with the various representational formats used within the discipline. For physics the development of disciplinary literacy involves competence in a wide range of representations, such as written and oral languages, diagrams, graphs, mathematics, apparatus and simulations. Our interest in this study was the way in which individual physics lecturers described how they deal with their students’ lack of representational competence. To this end, we interviewed 20 physics lecturers from five purposefully selected representative South African universities about their students’ lack of representational competence and the educational strategies they use for dealing with this problem. These interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed for potential patterns. Iterative, interpretive analysis resulted in the identification of six qualitatively different response strategies that South African physics lecturers indicate they invoke to deal with their students’ lack of representational competence. We suggest that an understanding of this range of possible response strategies will allow physics lecturers to better understand their own responses and those of their peers, and that this, in turn, may lead to changes in educational practice. Based on the differences in individual response strategies that we find, we further argue that inter- and intra-faculty discussions about undergraduate disciplinary literacy goals have the distinct potential for reforming South African undergraduate physics. Here, we suggest that the disciplinary literacy discussion matrix that we used to initiate dialogue in our interviews may also double as a useful starting point for such faculty discussions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 18, no 3, 242-252 p.
Keyword [en]
university physics, representational competence, disciplinary literacy, lecturers' response strategies
National Category
Other Physics Topics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-232185DOI: 10.1080/10288457.2014.953294OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-232185DiVA: diva2:746980
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2014-09-15 Created: 2014-09-15 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved

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