Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Physics

First Advisor's Name

Eric Brewe

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

David Brookes

Third Advisor's Name

Laird H. Kramer

Fourth Advisor's Name

Brian Raue

Keywords

Communities of Practice, identity, physics, graduate students

Date of Defense

7-9-2013

Abstract

Expertise in physics has been traditionally studied in cognitive science, where physics expertise is understood through the difference between novice and expert problem solving skills. The cognitive perspective of physics experts only create a partial model of physics expertise and does not take into account the development of physics experts in the natural context of research. This dissertation takes a social and cultural perspective of learning through apprenticeship to model the development of physics expertise of physics graduate students in a research group. I use a qualitative methodological approach of an ethnographic case study to observe and video record the common practices of graduate students in their biophysics weekly research group meetings. I recorded notes on observations and conduct interviews with all participants of the biophysics research group for a period of eight months. I apply the theoretical framework of Communities of Practice to distinguish the cultural norms of the group that cultivate physics expert practices. Results indicate that physics expertise is specific to a topic or subfield and it is established through effectively publishing research in the larger biophysics research community. The participant biophysics research group follows a learning trajectory for its students to contribute to research and learn to communicate their research in the larger biophysics community. In this learning trajectory students develop expert member competencies to learn to communicate their research and to learn the standards and trends of research in the larger research community. Findings from this dissertation expand the model of physics expertise beyond the cognitive realm and add the social and cultural nature of physics expertise development. This research also addresses ways to increase physics graduate student success towards their PhD. and decrease the 48% attrition rate of physics graduate students. Cultivating effective research experiences that give graduate students agency and autonomy beyond their research groups gives students the motivation to finish graduate school and establish their physics expertise.

Identifier

FI13080915

 

Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).