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Discourse Models in Swedish Physics Teacher Training: Potential Effects on Professional Identity
Uppsala University.
Uppsala University.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3244-2586
2015 (English)In: EARLI 2015 Book of Abstracts, 2015, 378-378 p.Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Introduction

In Sweden, the training of secondary physics teachers generally consists of three parts: physics courses in the physics department, pedagogical core courses in the education department and teaching practice in schools. In this paper we study the discourse models enacted in these three training environments at a large university in Sweden. Our interest is the potential effects these discourse models may have on trainee physics teachers’ professional identity building.

Building a professional identity

Teacher training has numerous goals. Apart from learning subject matter and pedagogical skills, trainees are also in the process of building their professional teacher identity. Here, we argue that in order to support this process as effectively as possible we need to better understand the role the training environment plays in this identity-building process.

The concept of professional identity has been used within educational research in a variety of ways (see for example summaries in Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009 and Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004). For our purposes, we follow Connelly and Clandinin (1999) who view professional identity as consisting of the set of narratives teachers tell about what it means to be a teacher. In order to be judged as professional, these narratives need to be framed within accepted discourse models. As Gee points out:

“[Discourse] allows (and requires) people to be (for a time and place) socioculturally distinctive who's and to accomplish socioculturally distinctive what's. These who's and what's are always defined, partially, in opposition to other sorts of who's and what's, and are always related to models of what count as "valuable" (and "normal") people, activities, and things.” (2005, p. 31).

Thus, our aim is to study the potential effects of a Swedish teacher training programme on trainee physics teachers’ professional identity-building. What interests us are the discourse models that are enacted in the three environments that trainee physics teachers encounter, and the affordances and constraints for the construction of professional identities that these models entail.

Methodology – data collection – analysis

We conducted semi-structured interviews (Kvale, 1996) with nine teacher educators (three physics lecturers, three pedagogy lecturers and three school placement supervisors). The interviews were guided by a smaller number of overarching themes, such as the informant’s opinion about what physics teacher students need to learn. Each of the themes was followed up with open-ended questions in order to elicit the particular concerns of the informant. The interviews lasted around 90 minutes and were later transcribed verbatim, iteratively coded and analysed thematically (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992)

Findings

Our analysis resulted in a number of distinct and potentially competing discourse models (Gee 2005) that are enacted in the three environments trainee physics teachers meet. In this paper we particularly focus on the ‘physics expert’ model (see figure 1). Our reason for focusing on this particular model is that it dominates amongst both teacher educators at the physics department and school placement supervisors. In this model, the primary goal of physics education, both in secondary school and at university level is to create future physics experts.

Figure 1: The physics expert discourse model

In the physics expert discourse model current research into physics and its applications is seen as exciting and motivating both for students and teachers. In contrast, secondary school subject matter is viewed as inherently boring—something that needs to be made interesting. Following this logic, one important thing for trainee teachers to learn is how to keep up with new discoveries in physics in order to make school physics exciting and meaningful.

The physics expert model co-exists with several other discourse models that are more likely to be invoked in the education department. These models value quite different goals such as the development of practical skills, reflective practice, critical thinking and citizenship.

 

Educational significance

Invoking the physics expert model makes the building of a professional identity problematic for trainee physics teachers in a number of ways. First choosing to become a secondary school teacher does not sit very well with the valuing of a physics expert identity. If focused, cutting-edge research is what is valued, why would anyone choose to go and work with physics in an unfocused, general manner in schools? Second, the underlying premises of many of the courses trainee physics teachers take in the education department are difficult to reconcile with this model. For example, if the main role of a physics teacher is the creation of future physicists, important parts of the curriculum such as developing a scientifically literate society become relegated to a subsidiary status.  

Conclusions

We have identified a number of discourse models that we claim tacitly steer what is signalled as valued (and not valued) in the teacher-training programme we studied. For teacher trainers, we argue that a better understanding of these models will allow conscious, informed decisions to be taken about their own teaching practice. For prospective teachers, knowledge of these models is important since it empowers them to question the kind of teacher they want to become. Going forward it would be interesting to see whether similar models can be found in other teacher training programmes both within Sweden and in other countries.

References

Beauchamp, C., & Thomas, L. (2009). Understanding teacher identity: an overview of issues in the literature and implications for teacher education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), 175–189.

Beijaard, D., Meijer, P. C., & Verloop, N. (2004). Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20(2), 107–128.

Bogdan, R., & Biklen, S. K. (1992). Qualitative research for education : an introduction to theory and methods. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Connelly, F. M., & Clandinin, D. J. (1999). Shaping a professional identity : stories of educational practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Gee, J. P. (2005). An introduction to discourse analysis : theory and method. New York: Routledge.

Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews : an introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. 378-378 p.
Keyword [en]
Teacher training, Physics, discourse models, Professional identity, narrative
National Category
Didactics Other Physics Topics
Research subject
Natural Science, Science Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-45733OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-45733DiVA: diva2:846647
Conference
Towards a reflective society: synergies between learning, teaching and research, 16th Biennial EARLI Conference for research on learning and instruction, 25-29 August, 2015, Limassol
Available from: 2015-08-17 Created: 2015-08-17 Last updated: 2016-02-03Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
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