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Extending the theoretical framing for physics education research: An illustrative application of complexity science
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics.
2014 (English)In: Physical Review Special Topics : Physics Education Research, ISSN 1554-9178, E-ISSN 1554-9178, Vol. 10, 020122- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The viability of using complexity science in physics education research (PER) is exemplified by(1) situating central tenets of student persistence research in complexity science and (2) drawing on themethods that become available from this to illustrate analyzing the structural aspects of students’ networkedinteractions as an important dynamic in student persistence. By drawing on the most cited characterizationsof student persistence, we theorize that university environments are made up of social and academicsystems, which PER work on student persistence has largely ignored. These systems are interpreted asbeing constituted from rules of interaction that affect the structural aspects of students’ social and academicnetwork interactions from a complexity science perspective. To illustrate this empirically, an exploration ofthe nature of the social and academic networks of university-level physics students is undertaken. This isdone by combining complexity science with social network analysis to characterize structural similaritiesand differences of the social and academic networks of students in two courses. It is posited that framing asocial network analysis within a complexity science perspective offers a new and powerful applicabilityacross a broad range of PER topics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 10, 020122- p.
Keyword [en]
01.40.Fk, 89.75.Fb, 89.65.-s
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-235503DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.10.020122ISI: 000342156200001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-235503DiVA: diva2:760915
Available from: 2014-11-05 Created: 2014-11-05 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically 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. 185 p.
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)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2015-09-11 Created: 2015-08-03 Last updated: 2015-10-01

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