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Physics Education Research Conference 2012 Invited Talks


Cultural variations in epistemological orientations: Impacts on knowledge, meanings, and reasoning about the natural world

Presenter: Megan Bang, University of Washington
Discussant: Noah D. Finkelstein, University of Colorado-Boulder
Moderator: Hunter G. Close, Texas State University – San Marcos

Sheraton, Ben Franklin Ballroom

Increasingly, learning scholars have focused on how race, culture and class have been used to define deficit-oriented discourses about students from non-dominant communities understandings, thinking, experiences, and language use (e.g., what comprises an effective explanation or convincing data; what "smart" looks and sounds like) and restrict the intellectual opportunities these youth have to learn in school (e.g. Lee, 2009; Gutierrez et. al, 2009; Barton & Tan, 2008). We have sought to understand how these issues place epistemological demands on Indigenous students, specifically in thinking and sense-making about the natural world towards the goal of creating more affective learning environments. Through a micro-analysis of two contexts, one an informal interaction between a child and their parent, and one in a learning environment, I explore how relational epistemologies, and variations in causality and inference are embedded in these issues and raise questions and possibilities in the design of learning environments.

Download Megan Bang's Invited Presentation

Practice-Linked Identities, Social identities, and Mathematics Learning

Presenter: Indigo Esmonde, University of Toronto
Discussant: David Hammer, University of Maryland
Moderator: Leslie J. Atkins, California State University Chico

I will talk about two different ways of thinking about identity as it relates to learning, and discuss the importance of integrating both perspectives. First, I'll talk about practice-linked identity: a sense of self that develops through participation in a set of cultural or collective practices. These identities are shifting and changeable, and are developed in relation to other people in the context. Second, I'll talk about social identity: a sense of self --or a perception of others -- based on socially meaningful categories like race or gender. These identities are seen as quite static (although they may not be experienced that way) and are related to broader systems of oppression in society. I will give examples from my research in mathematics education, and discuss how these concepts can be useful in the study of physics education.

Download Indigo Esmonde's Invited Presentation

When Everyday and Scientific Concepts Grow Into One Another: Syncretic and Connected Learning

Presenter: Kris D. Gutiérrez, University of Colorado at Boulder
Discussant: Noah D. Finkelstein, University of Colorado-Boulder
Moderator: Hunter G. Close, Texas State University – San Marcos

As schools become increasingly irrelevant to meaningful learning for young people, they also fail in fulfilling their social equalizing agenda. There is a growing disconnect between the interests and everyday practices of our nation's students and formal schooling's approaches to engaging them in rigorous, meaningful, and relevant learning. Of concern, there are social and cognitive, as well as personal, institutional, and economic consequences to disconnected learning. Today's students move across a range of contexts and produce artifacts that reflect the intercultural, hybrid, and multimodal practices of which they are part.  These repertoires developed across the ecologies of interest and everyday life should be cultivated as important dimensions to consequential learning. From a cultural historical learning perspective, transformative learning involves shifts between and across new combinations of contexts and tools that can be leveraged across ecologies and domains of learning (Engestrom, 2003; Gutierrez, 2008). Drawing on the best of what we know about how people learn, this paper focuses on how we can ratchet up learning across a range of ecologies by designing openings and forms of support that create opportunities for new learning pathways into the future. In particular, it focuses on the affordances of syncretic and connected learning approaches in supporting the development of toolkits that have utility across tasks, purposes, disciplinary boundaries, learning environments, and future-oriented trajectories and identities.