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Trainee teacher identities in the discourses of physics teacher education: Going against the flow of university physics
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: 0000-0002-6265-0004
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates what is involved in being recognized as a legitimate physics teacher-to-be in a Swedish physics teacher programme. Drawing on in-depth, qualitative interviews with 17 physics teacher educators and 17 trainee physics teachers, this thesis sees learning to become a physics teacher as a process of performing professional identities. It demonstrates aligning discourses of educators and trainees, and outlines a number of challenges that trainees have to negotiate when learning to become physics teachers.

The first part of the project analyzes the discourses of teacher educators. Four discourse models are identified which demonstrate how the talk of physics lecturers portrays the default goal of learning physics as becoming a researcher. Choosing to become a teacher in this system, means diverting from the expected path of a physics student, and moving backwards towards school physics. In such a system, trainee physics teachers are described as less competent and ambitious than other physics students, and can be understood to be incomprehensibly “going against the flow” of university physics by aiming towards school physics.

The second part of the project shows how physics courses are experienced by the trainee physics teachers as primarily meeting the needs of other student groups. The educators’ talk about trainee teachers as less competent and ambitious is mirrored by trainees who see no incentive to try hard for good results. The analysis shows a physics study culture that emphasises brilliance and nerdiness, resulting in a passive classroom culture and high stress. Deepened analysis of the identity negotiations of three female interviewees shows how trainee teachers are resourceful in navigating this study culture. Combining positions of feminine woman, trainee teacher, and physics student, these students create practices of relaxed and constructive physics learning that challenge the elitist physics discourse.

The education of physics teachers is important for many reasons. There are projected shortages of trained teachers, and physics teachers have the power to affect how physics, a field that is lacking diversity, is perceived by young people. By exploring how becoming a physics teacher is entangled with discourses of competence, femininity, and the status of the physics discipline this thesis takes a novel approach to the education of physics teachers. The findings suggest that physics faculty in their role as teacher educators examine assumptions about physics teacher education and trainee physics teachers, and can be used to empower trainee physics teachers to challenge norms of brilliance and masculinity in physics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2021. , p. 174
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 2037
Keywords [en]
physics, physics teacher education, preservice teacher training, professional identity, identity performances, femininities, discourse analysis, qualitative interviews, educational relevance, gender
National Category
Physical Sciences Didactics Gender Studies Educational Sciences
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-440006ISBN: 978-91-513-1198-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-440006DiVA, id: diva2:1543909
Public defence
2021-06-04, Häggsalen, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 14:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2021-05-11 Created: 2021-04-13 Last updated: 2021-05-25
List of papers
1. A Fragmented Training Environment: Discourse Models in the Talk of Physics Teacher Educators
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A Fragmented Training Environment: Discourse Models in the Talk of Physics Teacher Educators
2020 (English)In: Research in science education, ISSN 0157-244X, E-ISSN 1573-1898, Vol. 50, no 6, p. 2559-2585Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article reports the results of an empirical study exploring the discourses of physics teacher educators. We ask how the expressed understandings of a physics teacher education programme in the talk of teacher educators potentially support the identity construction of new teachers. Nine teacher educators from different sections of a physics teacher programme in Sweden were interviewed. The concept of discourse models was used to operationalise how the discourses of the teacher education programme potentially enable the performance of different physics teacher identities. The analysis resulted in the construction of four discourse models that could be seen to be both enabling and limiting the kinds of identity performances trainee physics teachers can enact. Knowledge of the models thus potentially empowers trainee physics teachers to understand the different goals of their educational programme and from there make informed choices about their own particular approach to becoming a professional physics teacher. We also suggest that for teacher educators, knowledge of the discourse models could facilitate making conscious, informed decisions about their own teaching practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer Nature, 2020
Keywords
Teacher education, Physics, Discourse, Identity
National Category
Educational Sciences Physical Sciences Gender Studies
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-370078 (URN)10.1007/s11165-018-9793-9 (DOI)000589195300018 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2015-01891
Available from: 2018-12-18 Created: 2018-12-18 Last updated: 2021-04-13Bibliographically approved
2. Developing Students’ Disciplinary Literacy?: The Case of University Physics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Developing Students’ Disciplinary Literacy?: The Case of University Physics
2018 (English)In: Global Developments in Literacy Research for Science Education / [ed] Kok-Sing Tang, Kristina Danielsson, Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2018, p. 357-376Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this chapter we use the concept of disciplinary literacy (Airey, 2011a, 2013) to analyze the goals of university physics lecturers. Disciplinary literacy refers to a particular mix of disciplinary-specific communicative practices developed for three specific sites: the academy, the workplace and society. It has been suggested that the development of disciplinary literacy may be seen as one of the primary goals of university studies (Airey, 2011a).

The main data set used in this chapter comes from a comparative study of physics lecturers in Sweden and South Africa (Airey, 2012, 2013; Linder, Airey, Mayaba, & Webb, 2014). Semi-structured interviews were carried out using a disciplinary literacy discussion matrix (Airey, 2011b), which enabled us to probe the lecturers’ disciplinary literacy goals in the various semiotic resource systems used in undergraduate physics (i.e. graphs, diagrams, mathematics, language).

The findings suggest that whilst physics lecturers have strikingly similar disciplinary literacy goals for their students, regardless of setting, they have very different ideas about whether they themselves should teach students to handle these disciplinary-specific semiotic resources. It is suggested that the similarity in physics lecturers’ disciplinary literacy goals across highly disparate settings may be related to the hierarchical, singular nature of the discipline of physics (Bernstein, 1999, 2000).

In the final section of the chapter some preliminary evidence about the disciplinary literacy goals of those involved in physics teacher training is presented. Using Bernstein’s constructs, a potential conflict between the hierarchical singular of physics and the horizontal region of teacher training is noticeable.

Going forward it would be interesting to apply the concept of disciplinary literacy to the analysis of other disciplines—particularly those with different combinations of Bernstein’s classifications of hierarchical/horizontal and singular/region.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2018
Keywords
Disciplinary Literacy, Undergraduate physics, Higher education, Physics teacher education, knowledge structures, singulars, regions
National Category
Other Physics Topics Educational Sciences
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-340015 (URN)10.1007/978-3-319-69197-8_21 (DOI)978-3-319-69197-8 (ISBN)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2015-01891
Available from: 2018-01-25 Created: 2018-01-25 Last updated: 2024-05-08Bibliographically approved
3. Swimming Against the Tide: Five Assumptions about Physics Teacher Education Sustained by the Culture of Physics Departments
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Swimming Against the Tide: Five Assumptions about Physics Teacher Education Sustained by the Culture of Physics Departments
2021 (English)In: Journal of Science Teacher Education, ISSN 1046-560X, E-ISSN 1573-1847, Vol. 32, no 8, p. 934-951Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study explores the culture of physics departments in Sweden in relation to physicsteacher education. The commitment of physics departments to teacher education iscrucial for the quality of physics teacher education and the way in which physicslecturers’ talk about teacher education is significant, since it can affect trainees’ physicslearning and the choice to become a physics teacher. We analysed interviews witheleven physicists at four Swedish universities, looking for assumptions in relation toteacher training that are expressed in their talk. We found five tacit assumptions aboutphysics teacher training, that together paint a picture of trainee physics teachersmoving in the "wrong" direction, against the tide of physics. These are the PhysicsExpert Assumption: the purpose of all undergraduate physics teaching is to createphysics experts. The Content Assumption : the appropriate physics content for futureschool physics teachers is the same as that for future physicists. The GoalAssumption: the role of a school physics teacher is to create new physicists. TheStudent Assumption: students who become physics teachers do not have the abilityto make it as successful physicists. The Teaching Assumption: If you know physicsthen it’s not difficult to teach it. We suggest that these five assumptions, if perpetuatedwithout reflection, risk working against high quality physics teacher education. Forphysics teacher educators, our results can be used as a lens to reflect on the localdepartmental culture and its effect on teacher education.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2021
Keywords
Teacher education, Physics, Discourse, Identity
National Category
Physical Sciences Educational Sciences
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-397001 (URN)10.1080/1046560X.2021.1905934 (DOI)000647360000001 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2015-01891
Available from: 2019-11-13 Created: 2019-11-13 Last updated: 2023-07-12Bibliographically approved
4. On the periphery of university physics: trainee physics teachers’ experiences of learning undergraduate physics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>On the periphery of university physics: trainee physics teachers’ experiences of learning undergraduate physics
2021 (English)In: European journal of physics, ISSN 0143-0807, E-ISSN 1361-6404, Vol. 42, no 5, article id 055702Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

High school physics teachers have a difficult job to do. On the one hand, they are charged with contributing to the creation of a scientifically literate society, while on the other they play a pivotal role in the recruitment of future physicists. Given the importance of this dual role, one might expect that the training of future physics teachers would be a priority for any physics department. However, research suggests that this is often not the case. While concerns have been raised about future physics teachers' understanding of physics content, less work has focussed on the sociocultural experiences of the learning environments trainees meet when learning undergraduate physics. This case study examines how a sample of trainee physics teachers perceive learning undergraduate physics content together with engineering and physics bachelor students in a large, high-status, research-oriented physics department. The findings aim to be of interest to physics lecturers when examining their own practice. We interviewed 17 trainee physics teachers about their experiences of learning undergraduate physics, how they perceived the relevance of their physics courses for their future role as teachers, and how this affected their physics learning. Here, we identified four central themes of the students' experiences: (1) teacher programme invisibility, (2) passive classroom culture, (3) perceived relevance of physics courses, and (4) no incentive to do well in physics. We discuss how this study illustrates the potential struggles trainee physics teachers may encounter when learning undergraduate physics. We also suggest how our findings may be used to inform the practice of university physics lecturers who come in contact with trainee physics teachers, and comment on the structure and organization of physics teacher education as a whole.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Institute of Physics Publishing (IOPP)IOP, 2021
Keywords
Physics teacher education, pre-service teacher education, phsyics content, educational relevance, Fysiklärarutbildning, fysikinnehåll, relevans, lärarstudenter
National Category
Didactics Pedagogy Other Physics Topics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-439699 (URN)10.1088/1361-6404/ac0e1e (DOI)000674461800001 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2021-04-09 Created: 2021-04-09 Last updated: 2024-01-15Bibliographically approved
5. Crafting constructive positions of learning physics: Trainee teachers’ negotiations of femininity in a traditionally masculinized learning space.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Crafting constructive positions of learning physics: Trainee teachers’ negotiations of femininity in a traditionally masculinized learning space.
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Female underrepresentation in physics is a global issue, and it has been suggested thatphysics teachers should be one part of the solution. In this paper, we explore how femaletrainee physics teachers negotiate their positioning as women and trainee teachers to createspaces for themselves as learners of physics. The empirical data consists of interviews with17 trainee physics students, and the analysis focuses predominantly on the identitynegotiations of three of the female students. We find that the women simultaneouslysubmit to and master a “physics nerd” discourse that connects physics with nerdiness,masculinity, and intelligence, which enables them to successfully create subject positionsof physics student, teacher student, femininity, and constructive study practice. This is ofparticular importance to trainee physics teachers who are going to be responsible forcreating inclusive and productive physics learning environments for their students.

Keywords
Physics teacher education, pre-service teacher education, women in physics, femininity, discourse analysis, gender
National Category
Other Physics Topics Didactics Pedagogy Gender Studies
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education; Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-439700 (URN)
Available from: 2021-04-09 Created: 2021-04-09 Last updated: 2021-04-21

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