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Different physics teaching strategies - How come?
Mälardalen University, School of Education, Culture and Communication. (NT-didaktik)
2011 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Different physics teaching strategies - How come?

Background, Framework, and Purpose

The study presented in this paper focus on physics teachers and their strategies in their teaching practices within a physics course (physics A) at the science program in secondary school in Sweden. The aim of the study is to analyze why physics teachers in upper secondary school choose to teach as they do. How can different ways of teaching be explained in relation to different ideals?

The physic subject per se is considered difficult and highly mathematical (Ford 1989; de Souza Barros & Elia 1998), largely influenced by the natural sciences ontology and scientific approach (Cross & Ormiston-Smith,1996;Wertheim,1997), regarded by the pupils as describing, not reflecting, and answering question never posed by them (Sjøberg, 2005). The teaching is characterized by facts, scientific theories and concepts (Gyberg 2003), organized according to the physics book, and with group work for special issues related to tasks from the textbook or elaborating (Engström & Gustafsson, 2010). In Sweden, energy teaching in physics at upper secondary school is more or less lacking content that comprises environmental relations. If physic teaching does include more of evaluative issues it is expressed very objective and precise (Gyberg 2003). But an appropriate subject content in energy teaching in physics would in accordance with international/ national policies and national physics curriculum raise more of political issues, more of environmental and efficiency problems, more of future energy solutions and obtain insights in sustainable energy (SKOLFS 2000:49; UNECE 2005; Space 2007). Ideally, the subject content contributes to the students’ ability to realize the strategies that must be asserted in the future, for example future technologies and what wise choices that are important to make in a person’s lifestyle. It requires physics teaching strategies for a holistic approach, a Vision ΙΙ (Roberts, 2007) where students receive science knowledge for citizenship.

It seems to be competing ideals for teaching physics, i.e. the political will to develop skills and knowledge for

change versus the scientific will to explain

phenomena. The study focus on physics teachers’ positions, dispositions, standpoints and teaching practices towards the ideal way to teach physics especially energy in upper secondary school. By using the concept habitus from Bourdieu's sociology, I will explain why the teachers do as they do. The habitus is according to Bourdieu essential internalized and converted into a disposition that generates meaning-giving standpoints. An assumption in the theoretical framework is that the teaching practices are closely related to the teachers' lifestyles, which in turn have been shaped through life-conditions, historically and in the present. Accordingly, through the variation of lifestyles, reality is perceived differently, which influence the teachers’ strategies of doing "the right thing" - a practical sense, closely related to specific life-conditions (Bourdieu, 1984). By investigating different teachers’ lifestyles one can thereby understand their habitus and their teaching practices (Callewaert, 2003).

Methods

In order to reach all the physics teachers who teach the Physics A course, all secondary schools in Sweden were contacted by e-mail, (n = 1025). Questions were asked designed to find schools giving the course during 2008-2009, physics teachers and their e-mail addresses. A web-based survey tool system was used. The respondent list contained e-mails to 913 physics teachers and they answered the questionnaire anonymously. The mail-questionnaire consisted of 7 sections with mixed open ended and closed answer questions. Response alternatives were made of actual responses/ opinions or of claims such as in high grade/low grade, never/seldom/often, etc., totally 687 statements/questions. Part 1 were dealing with what and how teacher teach and part 2-7 were dealing with the teacher´s current job, view on physics, growing up, studying, parents, family situation, life-style etc. Questions in part 1

were based on the study on the topic content for teaching about sustainable energy in Physics A course (Engström, 2008). Section 2 to 7 was designed with inspiration of both Bourdieu (1984) and other studies for example Lundin & Petersen (2005). When the survey was closed after six weeks, it was answered by 268 teachers. It was opened but not answered by another 222 and not opened at all by 423 teachers. First step in the analyses was a cluster analyses (Fields 2000). It resulted in three teachers groups teaching in the same way and with same content (Engström & Gustafsson, 2010). Only 190 teachers (of 268) could be involved in the cluster analysis because it requires an answer for every variable. In next step group habitus reconstructions were made from the answers in the questionnaire: Frequencies tables were created for the three groups for all variables, differences were searched for in answers, and differences were compared with other habitus reconstructions. Then the teachers types’ habitus were reconstructed from information about positions as physics teachers, their capital (cultural capital (education etc.), economical (income, house type etc.) and social (married or not, friends etc.)) and their standpoints towards energy teaching in physics, standpoints on content and methods in teaching, which are related to symbolic capital in larger fields (science, political, science education). The study focus on teacher as a group and a reconstruction of their collective habitus and thus habitus is seen as both individualized and collective (Bourdieu, 1984).

Results

Generally the physics teachers are a homogenous group and the

physics teacher habitus could for example be described as physics- and mathematics teacher, 4.5 or 5 year education (mathematics, physics, and civil engineering), reading the same science journals etc., socialize with friends within the same occupation, high status in school depending on the status of the physics subject. The three teacher types diverge at most about what they teach and have more in common coming to how they teach. For example, the teachers more or less appreciated group work and discussions involving the students' own discussions. The types are called The Manager of Traditional (MT), The Challenger for Technology (CT), The Challenger for Citizenship (CC) and they use different teaching strategies, have different views on science and choose different subject content. MT teaches physics in a traditional way and give the students who find physics easy and interesting what they want. They teach nearly nothing of the more valuing content and do not

let the students determine the content, or work with course content adapted to events in society and they do not let sustainable development influence the content. MT habitus is characterized by: a reverence to the natural scientific ideals, to the history of physics and mathematics, a gratitude to their own physics education at university, parents without higher education but who did encourage their children’s education, loyalty towards "working culture" in their choice of life style (home, clothes, vacations). CT teaches efficiency problems, strategies for the future and about the students own energy use and about economical aspects. They teach thematically and want to encourage their students to choose further studying in energy technology field and they let students discuss and evaluate society’s energy issues. CT habitus is characterized by: carrying out their own physics education with great self-confidence, dare to challenge, with parents working in private sector (science & technology), loyalty with upper middle class, value high material standard (house, cars, boats, cottage). CC teaches valuing content, sustainable development and let actual issues in society influence their teaching. They let students work thematically, in groups, with actual projects and they let students develop their own projects. CC habitus is characterized by: carrying out his/hers own education with great self-confidence, dare to challenge, parents with higher education (teaching, nursing) with great engaging in society, loyalty with upper middle class, interested in highborn culture (classical concerts, opera, poetry) bohemian approach (clothes, home) and engaged in society and politic.

Conclusions and Implications

Taken together, the study presents a picture of physics teachers and teaching (limited to energy-teaching in secondary school). The result shows that the practical teaching of physics generally leaves out the possibility for students to use their understanding of physics in societal contexts. Three types of physics teachers that choose different teaching strategies, has been found. Especially one type teach to a large extent a more valuating content, and the study shows that what makes this teacher-type able to adopt these kinds of teaching strategies is social background and life experiences that has shaped interests, opinions and perspectives. For example, this physics teacher's habitus is characterized by high self confidence towards the physics science making it possible for teaching-strategies that are contrary to traditional values from physics science transformed into structures in secondary school physics. The will to question the culture of traditional physics is formed in a social background with highly educated parents that themselves highly valued societal involvement. Every student on the physics-A course in secondary school in Sweden will not complete higher studies in the physics or energy domain, but all of them will within the course meet notions and relations that they are expected to understand and use to describe the world. Secondary school physics should incorporate a physics teaching for citizenship, and at the same time give competence for those who want to seek higher education in physics. An important implication is that physics teacher education should give teacher students an opportunity to reflect on their view on the physics subject and their view on science, as well as their view on how physics should be taught and why they think that way. Giving aspiring teachers a chance to reflect over their dispositions can be a way to give the individuals a foundation for an understanding of the way they act and their values.

Bibliography

Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction. A social critique of the jugement of taste. London : Routledge.

Callewaert, S. (2003). Fra Bourdieus og Foucaults verden – pædagogik og sociologi, diskurser og praktikker efter det moderne. Akademisk forlag.

Cross, R.T. & Ormiston-Smith, H. (1996). Physics teaching, professional development and a socialy critical ideology. Journal of Curriculum Studies. 28(6),651 – 667.

De Souza Barros, S., & Elia, M. F. (1998) Physics teachers´attitudes: How do they affect the reality of the classroom and models for change? In A. Tiberghien, E. L. Jossem & J. Barojas (Eds.), Connecting research in physics education with teacher education. Published by International Commission on Physics Education

Engström, S. (2008). Content Objectives for Teaching Sustainable Energy in Physics Education. In Proceedings of the XIII. IOSTE Symposium. ISBN 978-605-5829-16-2. (pp. 271-278) Ankara: Palme Publications & Bookshops LTD.CO.

Engström, S. & Gustafsson, P. (2010). Are there different types of physics teachers? – About teaching sustainable energy in an upper secondary school physics course.

Proceedings ХΙV IOSTE Symposium June 13, - 18. 2010 Socio – cultural and Human Values in Science and Technology Education.

Field, A. (2000). Postgraduate statistic: cluster analysis. Retr. 10.01026: http://www.statisticshell.com/cluster.pdf

Ford, K. W. (1989). Guest comment: Is Physics difficult? American Journal of Physics, 57, 871 – 872.

Gyberg, P. (2003). Energi som kunskapsområde – om praktik och diskurser i skolan. Linköping: Tema Teknik och social förändring Linköpings universitet

Lundin, S., & Petersen, K-A. (2005). Rekrytering till omvårdnadsutbildningar i Sverige 1993 – 2003. Report 2 from ESEP: Ethos in Society, Education and Practices. Uppsala: Uppsala Universitet.

Roberts, D. A. (2007). Scientific Literacy/ Science Literacy. In S.K. Abell, Lederman N.G. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Science Education (729 – 780). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Publishers.

Sjøberg, S. (2005). Naturvetenskap som allmänbildning – en kritisk ämnesdidaktik. Lund: Studentlitteratur.

SKOLFS 2000:49. Curriculum in Physics A. Retr. 091118 http://www3.skolverket.se/ki/eng/nv_eng.pdf

Space, W. (2007). Climate Physics. Using basic physics concepts to teach about climate change. Science Teacher 74(6), 44 – 48.

UNECE (2005). Unites Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Strategy for education for sustainable development. CEP/AC.13/2005/3/Rev.1. Retr. June 2009 http://www.unece.org/env/documents/2005/cep/ac.13/cep.ac.13.2005.3.rev.1.e.pdf

Wertheim, M. (1997). Phytagoras´trousers. London: Fourth Estate.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011.
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
naturvetenskapernas och teknikens didaktik
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-13068OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-13068DiVA: diva2:444813
Conference
ESERA 2011
Available from: 2011-09-30 Created: 2011-09-30 Last updated: 2016-01-14Bibliographically approved

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