“Shut up and calculate”: The available discursive positions in quantum physics courses
(English)In: Cultural Studies of Science Education, ISSN 1871-1502, E-ISSN 1871-1510Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Educating new generations of physicists is often seen as a matter of attracting good students, teaching them physics and making sure that they stay at the university. Sometimes, questions are also raised about what could be done to increase diversity in recruitment. Using a discursive perspective, in this study of three introductory quantum physics courses at two Swedish universities, we instead ask what it means to become a physicist, and whether certain ways of becoming a physicist and doing physics is privileged in this process. Asking the question of what discursive positions are made accessible to students, we use observations of lectures and problem solving sessions together with interviews with students to characterize the discourse in the courses. Many students seem to have high expectations for the quantum physics course and generally express that they appreciate the course more than other courses. Nevertheless, our analysis shows that the ways of being a “good quantum physics student” are limited by the dominating focus on calculating quantum physics in the courses. We argue that this could have negative consequences both for the education of future physicists and the discipline of physics itself, in that it may reproduce an instrumental “shut up and calculate”-culture of physics, as well as an elitist physics education. Additionally, many students who take the courses are not future physicists, and the limitation of discursive positions may also affect these students significantly.
Physics, Higher education, Quantum physics, Discourse, Identity
Physical Sciences Educational Sciences Gender Studies
Research subject Physics with specialization in Physics Education
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-267306DOI: 10.1007/s11422-016-9742-8OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-267306DiVA: diva2:872722