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)
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.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1273
Physics Education Research, Complexity Theory, Student Retention
Didactics Other Physics Topics
Research subject Physics with specialization in Physics Education
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-259413ISBN: 978-91-554-9303-5OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-259413DiVA: diva2:846064
2015-10-02, Häggsalen (Å10132), Ångströmlaboratoriet, Uppsala, 09:00 (English)
Koponen, Ismo, Professor of Physics
Linder, Cedric, Professor
List of papers