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Abstract Title: A study of postgraduate students in an astrophysics bridging year: Identifying Contradictions in a complex system
Abstract: Postgraduate students who transfer from "Historically Black Universities" to the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme (NASSP) that is run at the University of Cape Town often struggle academically.  While our previous studies on student epistemology went some way towards understanding student performance it became clear that broader socio-cultural and systemic issues were playing critical roles. Using Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as a theoretical perspective we (a) characterized the broader context as an Activity System and (b) identified the four main levels of systemic contradictions as proposed by the theory. We present findings from studies involving various cohorts of students.  One of the components of the curriculum that presented particular difficulty was an intermediate level Electromagnetism course. We therefore analysed this as a subsystem identifying several systemic and historical tensions.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Victoria Nwosu
Department of Physics, University of Cape Town
RW James, Rondebosch
Cape Town, Non U.S. 7701
Phone: 011216503337
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
Saalih Allie, Department of Physics, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Dedra Demaree, Department of Physics Oregon State University, USA
Andrew Deacon, Centre for Educational Technology, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Contributed Poster

Contributed Poster: Download the Contributed Poster