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Group work and physics: characteristics, learning possibilities and patterns of interaction
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education. Chalmers, Göteborg, Sweden.
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores group work in physics at university level. The guiding researchinterest is what happens in the students’ interactions during such (instructional)activities, focusing both on the physics content and group dynamics. The four collatedpapers are based on empirical data consisting of video and audio-recordings of sevengroups of students solving physics problems concerning force and friction in Newtonianmechanics. The students belonged to the Engineering Physics and Bioengineeringprogrammes at Chalmers University of Technology.In line with the guiding research interest, different facets of group work data wereanalysed using a multi-theoretic perspective at three levels with focus on the content,the context and the components. The three distinct approaches were based on differenttheoretical frameworks: phenomenography combined with variation theory, positioningtheory, and conversation analysis. The results presented in this thesis relate topedagogical characteristics of the learning situation, learning possibilities and patternsof interaction and all the analytical approaches contribute to all the aspects of theresults. The purpose of this design was to achieve a deeper understanding of a complexempirical situation by offering several accounts that are analytically and theoreticallydifferently grounded. The theoretical frameworks have been interpreted, and sometimesadapted, in order to offer analytical strength in reflecting essential facets of theempirical data with respect to the research interest. Each level of analysis uncoverednew dimensions of the learning situation, potentially enabling a synthesis of differentunderstandings of group work. This synthesis will inform and support instructionaladvice for the learning of physics.The results show that learning physics in small groups is a complex and nonlinearprocess where the students’ learning possibilities differ and have many levels. Theselearning possibilities take place simultaneously in group sessions and areinterconnected, for example, developing through discussion the way of experiencingphysics concepts, becoming and being part of a physics or an engineering communityand interactively producing answers, as well as communicative and representationaltools for learning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Göteborg: Chalmers University of Technology , 2011. , 75 p.
Series
Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie, ISSN 346-718X ; 3291
Keyword [en]
group work, engineering education, higher education, physics education, science education, multi-theoretic perspective, phenomenography, variation theory, positioning theory, conversation analysis
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-73375ISBN: 978-91-7385-610-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-73375DiVA: diva2:631198
Projects
digitalisering@umu
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2013-08-16 Created: 2013-06-20 Last updated: 2015-04-08Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Different stories of group work: exploring problem solving in engineering education
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Different stories of group work: exploring problem solving in engineering education
2012 (English)In: NorDiNa: Nordic Studies in Science Education, ISSN 1504-4556, E-ISSN 1894-1257, Vol. 8, no 1, 3-16 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article aims to further the understanding of group work in higher education, primarily in science. This is done through an empirical investigation of problem solving in small groups. Position theory isused as an analytic tool for describing the complex and dynamic processes of group work, focusing simultaneously on the physics content and the student community and how they constitute each other. We analysed four video-recorded sessions with students from two Master’s programs, Engineering Physics and Bioengineering, respectively. The students addressed two introductory mechanics problems. The analysis resulted in a characterisation in terms of seven ‘storylines’ of two different kinds. These are argued to reflect different aspects of engineering student communities, where one kind of storylines captures ways of approaching the problems and the other kind exemplifies boundary work involved in the constitution of communities.

National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-64132 (URN)
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2013-01-16 Created: 2013-01-16 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
2. Physics group work in a phenomenographic perspective: learning dynamics as the experience of variation and relevance
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Physics group work in a phenomenographic perspective: learning dynamics as the experience of variation and relevance
2009 (English)In: European Journal of Engineering Education, ISSN 0304-3797, E-ISSN 1469-5898, Vol. 34, no 4, 349-358 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper, we analyse learning dynamics in the context of physics group work of the kind increasinglyfound in engineering education.We apply a phenomenographic perspective on learning, seeing the notionof variation as the basic mechanism of learning. Empirically, we base our analysis on data from first yearengineering students discussing physics problems concerning force and friction while working in smallgroups of three or four. The discussions were captured on video and audio, and the subsequent analysisprimarily relies on detailed transcriptions and the students’ notes. The results illustrate how students relatedifferent parts of the whole learning object (Newtonian mechanics) to one another and create a variationwith respect to the parts and/or the whole; how the presence and experience of variation complementedby an experience of relevance may result in identifiable learning; and how tutor interventions may have afavourable impact on the learning dynamics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Informa UK Limited, 2009
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-73370 (URN)10.1080/03043790902989382 (DOI)
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2013-06-20 Created: 2013-06-20 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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