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Unpacking physics representations: towards an appreciation of disciplinary affordance
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics. (Physics Education Research)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics. (Physics Education Research)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics. (Physics Education Research)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics. (Physics Education Research)
2014 (English)In: Physical Review Special Topics : Physics Education Research, ISSN 1554-9178, E-ISSN 1554-9178, Vol. 10, no 2, 020129Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This theoretical article problematizes the access to disciplinary knowledge that different physics representations have the possibility to provide; that is, their disciplinary affordances. It is argued that historically, such access has become increasingly constrained for students as physics representations have been rationalized over time. Thus, the case is made that such rationalized representations, while powerful for communication from a disciplinary point of view, manifest as learning challenges for students. The proposal is illustrated using a vignette from a student discussion in the physics laboratory about circuit connections for an experimental investigation of the charging and discharging of a capacitor. It is concluded that in order for students to come to appreciate the disciplinary affordances of representations, more attention needs to be paid to their “unpacking”. Building on this conclusion, two questions are proposed that teachers can ask themselves in order to begin to unpack the representations that they use in their teaching. The paper ends by proposing directions for future research in this area.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 10, no 2, 020129
Keyword [en]
Physics representations, disciplinary affordance, representational fluency, unpacking
National Category
Other Physics Topics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-237609DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.10.020129ISI: 000348875000001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-237609DiVA: diva2:768316
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2014-12-03 Created: 2014-12-03 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Using a Social Semiotic Perspective to Inform the Teaching and Learning of Physics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Using a Social Semiotic Perspective to Inform the Teaching and Learning of Physics
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis examines meaning-making in three different areas of undergraduate physics: the refraction of light; electric circuits; and, electric potential and electric potential energy. In order to do this, a social semiotic perspective was constituted for the thesis to facilitate the analysis of meaning-making in terms of the semiotic resources that are typically used in the teaching and learning of physics. These semiotic resources include, for example, spoken and written language, diagrams, graphs, mathematical equations, gestures, simulations, laboratory equipment and working practices.

The empirical context of the thesis is introductory undergraduate physics where interactive engagement was part of the educational setting. This setting presents a rich data source, which is made up of video- and audio recordings and field notes for examining how semiotic resources affect physics teaching and learning.

Theory building is an integral part of the analysis in the thesis, which led to the constitution of a new analytical tool – patterns of disciplinary-relevant aspects. Part of this process then resulted in the development of a new construct, disciplinary affordance, which for a discipline such as physics, refers to the inherent potential of a semiotic resource to provide access to disciplinary knowledge. These two aspects, in turn, led to an exploration of new empirical and theoretical links to the Variation Theory of Learning.

The implications of this work for the teaching and learning of physics means that new focus is brought to the physics content (object of learning), the semiotic resources that are used to deal with that content, and how the semiotic resources are used to create patterns of variation within and across the disciplinary-relevant aspects. As such, the thesis provides physics teachers with new and powerful ways to analyze the semiotic resources that get used in efforts to optimize the teaching and learning of physics. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2015. 178 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1241
Keyword
Social semiotics, semiotic resources, physics education research, interactive engagement, disciplinary affordance, disciplinary-relevant aspects, patterns of disciplinary-relevant aspects, the Variation Theory of Learning
National Category
Other Physics Topics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-247771 (URN)978-91-554-9210-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-05-13, 10132, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2015-04-22 Created: 2015-03-23 Last updated: 2015-07-07

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Fredlund, TobiasLinder, CedricAirey, JohnLinder, Anne

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