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Swimming against the tide: Four myths about teacher education sustained by the culture of 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
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3244-2586
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8036-6245
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this paper we discuss how the culture of physics potentially affects physics teacher education. Our interest in this topic was initially motivated by the pessimistic description of the status of US physics teacher education reported by the Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics (T-TEP). The report suggests an eminently sensible range of measures that may be taken by physics departments to aid recruitment of well-qualified physics teachers. However, the authors of the report also point out that similar suggestions have been made in various reports over the last 130 years. In this paper, we suggest that the physics community needs to ask why measures that have been repeatedly recommended have seldom been acted upon within physics departments. We suggest that the culture of physics could potentially play a pivotal role in the success or otherwise of the report’s proposals. Inspired by the T-TEP report and our earlier findings that suggest that physics departments may be unintentionally working against the recruitment and retention of high-quality physics teachers, we decided to look more deeply into the issue of the effects of physics culture on physics teacher training. To do this we analyzed data from interviews with seventeen physics teacher educators at four Swedish universities. The study demonstrates how the talk of physicists in the contexts we studied does indeed appear to unintentionally undermine and devalue physics teacher education. Our analysis suggests that one facet of the culture of Swedish physics departments is the basic underlying assumption that the purpose of all undergraduate physics teaching is to create physics experts. This assumption leads to four ‘myths’ about trainee physics teachers and school physics. These are the Goal Myth—The role of a school physics teacher is to create new physicists, the Content Myth—The content of school physics is simple, uninteresting and inherently unproblematic, the Student Myth—Students who decide to become physics teachers do so because they don’t have the ability to make it as successful physicists and the Teaching Myth—It is not really necessary to learn how to teach physics. If we want the best physics teachers possible, then any tacit attitudes to physics teacher education similar to the ones signaled by these four myths need to be challenged. We should not expect good physics students who want to become teachers to “swim against the tide”.

Keywords [en]
Teacher education, Physics, Discourse, Identity
National Category
Physical Sciences Educational Sciences
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-397001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-397001DiVA, id: diva2:1369888
Available from: 2019-11-13 Created: 2019-11-13 Last updated: 2019-11-19
In thesis
1. Becoming a physics teacher: Disciplinary discourses and the development of professional identity
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Becoming a physics teacher: Disciplinary discourses and the development of professional identity
2019 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this Licentiate thesis I examine the system of physics teacher education. Physics teacher education is important because it is one of the main ways to influence how physics is taught in schools. By extension, physics teacher education has the potential to affect both who chooses to pursue physics as a career and how physics is perceived by Swedish society as a whole. In order to approach this problem, I chose to investigate the professional discourses of Swedish physics teacher educators. I focus on how these discourses potentially afford and constrain trainees’ possibilities of performing a professional physics teacher identity. While the topic of teacher identity has been extensively explored in the literature, the influence of the educational environment on what it means to become a physics teacher has remained very sparsely researched. Theoretically, I view identity as socially constructed in discourse. I connect identity to trainee learning by arguing that what trainees learn will be dependent on their possibilities to perform professional physics teacher identities in their educational programme. Using discourse analysis of interviews with physics teacher educators, I identify four discourse models. These four models paint a picture of the educational program as fragmented with no coherent way of viewing the educational program as a whole. I further suggest that the culture of physics departments plays a pivotal role in the success or otherwise of creating good quality physics teacher education. I demonstrate how an implicit assumption, that the purpose of teaching physics is to create physics experts, appears to unintentionally undermine and devalue physics teacher education within physics departments. The findings presented in this thesis have the potential to inspire teacher educators and physics faculty to examine their own assumptions about what the goal of physics teaching is, and to facilitate the negotiations needed to create a common understanding of the goals of the physics teacher education.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: , 2019. p. 108
Keywords
physics teacher education, discourse analysis, professional identity
National Category
Physical Sciences Educational Sciences
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-397002 (URN)
Presentation
2020-01-15, Room Å80121, Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-12-09 Created: 2019-11-19 Last updated: 2019-12-09Bibliographically approved

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Larsson, JohannaAirey, JohnLundqvist, Eva

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