This study addresses questions of belonging in the context of university physics from an identity perspective. Using a post-structuralist, discursive view of identity, I ask: What discursive possibilities for identification are available for students in an undergraduate quantum physics course and how do students negotiate these possibilities in constructing a viable identity as a physics student? The study was conducted through participant observation, primarily of lectures and tutorials, on three introductory courses in quantum physics at different Swedish universities. Observations were followed by one group interview for each course. Two courses were mainly attended by physics bachelor students and one mainly by engineering physics students. Observations were collected into detailed field notes with spoken language quoted, both almost verbatim and more in summary. This material was analysed through iterative coding using a discourse analytical perspective. The analysis showed that through the discourse in the courses, a few different practices are made recognised as going on: ‘performing quantum physics’, ‘exploring quantum physics’, and ‘applying quantum physics’. These practices are related to a few possibilities for identification, which I call 'physicist' and 'physics student'. I argue that these possibilities put a limit on who can be recognized as a legitimate subject in quantum physics courses. First, the possibilities of being something else than a 'physics student', 'performing quantum physics' are narrow, meaning that those students who strive for being 'physicists' and 'exploring' or 'applying' quantum physics can have a hard time. Second, many different students, including pre-service teachers and meteorology students take the courses, and for some of them, perhaps no intelligible position is available. This points to how becoming intelligible, mastering the discourse, or being a ‘proper’ physics student may be a part of the problem of inclusion or exclusion in specific courses and in science in general.
11th Conference of the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA), 31.8-4.9 2015, Helsinki, Finland