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Obscuring Power Structures in the Physics Classroom: Implications for Student Engagement and Physics Identity Development Documents

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Obscuring Power Structures in the Physics Classroom: Implications for Student Engagement and Physics Identity Development 

written by Zahra Hazari, Robynne M. Lock, Cheryl A. P. Cass, and Carrie Beattie

Many students are disempowered in physics classes finding them to be more difficult, unpleasant, narrow, and masculine when compared to other subjects. Such disempowerment can lead students to limit their engagement. This study explores how physics teachers can help students engage with the material and develop their physics identities by obscuring traditional classroom hierarchies. Employing a positionality lens on case studies of four high school physics teachers, we coded teachers' behavioral cues that contributed to the relational structure in the classroom. Our findings suggest that teachers' physical cues (space and hierarchical stance occupied), structural cues (dynamic nature of the classroom allowing alternating roles), contextual cues (including students' thoughts and experiences), and social cues (obscuring traditional boundaries between teacher and student) affect the social distance between the teacher, students, and content. This social distance can moderate students' level of engagement and ultimately their physics identity development.

Published February 1, 2014
Last Modified December 19, 2013

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