‘Cultural Border Crossings' within the physics classroom – a cultural perspective on youth attitudes towards physics

University of Aarhus, Denmark

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This Thesis provides a new integration between social-psychological and cultural perspectives and approaches to the study of students' attitudes towards science. On this foundation it investigates empirically, how the attitudes of adolescents towards physics in upper secondary school are influenced by critical cultural differences between their personal life-worlds and the sub-culture of school physics ('Cultural Border Crossings', 'CBC's). Certain CBC's of value-type are found to be of major importance (Krogh and Thomsen, 2005), and consequently a more systematic study to identify possible value-oriented CBC's is undertaken. One part of this work is an empirical investigation of the general value-structure of Late-Modern urban students, and the results are combined with contemporary youth-sociology to form four ideal value-types of youth. Another part of this work is the generation of an analytic framework to study the values inherent in the classroom practices. This The Ethos of School Science-Analysis (TESSA)-framework is used along with diverse data to establish empirically The Ethos of School Physics in DK. Confronting the ideal youth value-types with The Ethos of School Physics reveals a number of fundamental value-oriented CBC's, that may be the main reasons for the alienation of youth from a science subject as physics. On a very general level the dominant Cultural Border Crossings may be formulated as Social Relations-oriented youth types vs. the Individualizing Organization of the learning environment, Autonomy-oriented youth types vs. the Communicational and Epistemological Closure and the Exclusive (teacher)Power of the classroom, Potentiation-oriented (and affective) youth types vs. the Cognitive Motivators of physics teaching and finally, youth types oriented towards their Personal Life-worlds and everyday culture vs. the Strangeness of school physics.

Pilot-studies, also reported in the Thesis, indicate that these CBC's are softened in the kindred subject biology. Consistent with that adolescents seem to have more positive attitudes towards biology. The last part of the Thesis is a discussion of paedagogical consequenses and perspectives and an outline of important issues for future research

Reference List

Krogh,L.B. and Thomsen,P.V. (2005). Studying students´ attitudes towards science from a cultural perspective but with a quantitative methodology: border crossing into the physics classroom. International Journal of Science Education 27:281-302.

Steno Department for Studies of Science and Science Education
University of Aarhus
Ny Munkegade, Bygn. 1521
DK-8000 Århus C.
Direct tel: +45 8942 3733
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