In this paper we investigate the discourse models enacted in three different sections of a Swedish physics teacher training programme: the physics department, the education department and school. We are interested in what happens when the culture of physics meets the cultures of education and school within physics teacher education and the potential effects of these three cultures on trainee physics teachers’ professional identity building.
Working at a large university in Sweden, we conducted semi structured interviews with nine teacher educators—three from each section of the programme. In our analysis we identified several discourse models in the interviewees’ talk about the goals of physics teacher training. We focus in particular on the physics expert model that dominated amongst the teacher trainers at the physics department and also amongst school placement supervisors. In this model, the primary goal of physics teaching is to create future physics experts. The physics expert discourse model coexists with several other discourse models that value quite different goals such as the development of practical skills, reflective practice, critical thinking and citizenship. These potentially competing models were more likely to be invoked in the education department.
Finally we highlight the potential problems the physics expert discourse model can cause for physics teachers’ professional identity. We argue that a better understanding of the range of potentially competing discourse models would allow teacher trainers to make conscious, informed decisions about the training environment. We also suggest that knowledge of these models is important for trainee physics teachers since it empowers them to question the kind of teacher they want to become.