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Abstract Title: Cultural Influences on Physics Teaching: Identifying Factors, Implementing Change
Abstract: Members of the PER community have recently been using classroom culture as a lens to examine current pedagogies, as well as to develop new and effective instructional methods.  As such, many researchers are asking what makes classroom cultures productive?  What beliefs, commitments, discourses, and practices do students and instructors bring into classrooms? How is the creation of a culture negotiated between its members? This session seeks to address these questions by presenting new findings from various physics learning contexts.  Attendees will learn about: the influences of urban undergraduates' cultural background on teaching and learning physics, how a high school teacher's responsiveness to students' learning preferences changed her classroom instruction, how a group of physics graduate students enacts undergraduate courses that reflect their affirmative value system, and how evidence-focused labs and adaptations to a research-based curriculum influenced high school students' participation in scientific discourse.  An interactive discussion will follow the presentations.
Abstract Type: Poster Symposium

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Natan Samuels
Florida International University
11200 SW 8 ST
Miami, FL 33174
and Co-Presenter(s)
Symposium - please see below.

Symposium Specific Information

Discussant: Natan Samuels
Moderator: Benedikt Harrer
Presentation 1 Title: Instructional Changes Based on Cogenerative Physics Reform
Presentation 1 Authors: Natan Samuels, Eric Brewe, and Laird Kramer
Florida International University
Presentation 1 Abstract: We describe changes in a physics teacher's pedagogy and cultural awareness that resulted from her students' involvement in reforming their classroom.  For this case study, we examined a veteran high school teacher's semester-long use of CMPLE (the Cogenerative Mediation Process for Learning Environments) in her Modeling Instruction classroom. CMPLE is a formative intervention designed to help students and instructors collaborate to change classroom dynamics, based on how closely the environment matches their learning preferences. Analysis of classroom videos, interviews, and other artifacts indicates that adapting the environment to align with the preferences of that shared culture affected the instructor in complex ways. We will trace her teaching practices and her self-described awareness of the culture of learning, to highlight notable changes. The teacher espoused deeper understanding of her students' physics learning experience, which she gained from including students in responding to their own individual and collective learning preferences.

Footnote: Supported by NSF grant #0802184.
Presentation 2 Title: Cultural Toolkits in the Urban Physics Learning Community
Presentation 2 Authors: Mel Sabella and Andrea G. Van Duzor
Chicago State University
Presentation 2 Abstract: Chicago State University has been involved in curriculum development, teacher preparation, and education research that target urban physics learners on the south-side of Chicago.  Through this work we have begun to recognize specific cultural norms that our students bring to the classroom.  These cultural norms appear to help our students establish strong communities in classes.  Because of the homogeneity of our population, with most students coming from within a five-mile radius of our campus, there are a set of shared experiences that help establish a level of trust and sense of community that manifests itself in the science learning environment.  Aspects of community also play a major role in the preparation of teachers.  In this talk we discuss our understanding of CSU student culture, its importance in the development of community, and its role in our physics classrooms as well as its role in the preparation of future physics teachers.    

Footnotes:  Supported by the NSF Noyce Program (DUE # 0833251) and a PhysTEC Grant from the American Physical Society.
Presentation 3 Title: Building Classroom and Organizational Structure Around Positive Cultural Values
Presentation 3 Authors: Joel Corbo, Dimitri Dounas-Frazer, and Anna Zaniewski
University of California, Berkeley
Presentation 3 Abstract: The Compass Project is a self-formed group of graduate and undergraduate students in the physical sciences at UC Berkeley. Our goals are to improve undergraduate physics education, provide opportunities for professional development, and increase retention of students--especially those from populations typically underrepresented in the physical sciences. Compass fosters a diverse, collaborative student community by providing a wide range of services, including a summer program and fall/spring seminar courses. We describe Compass's cultural values, discuss how community members are introduced to and help shape those values, and demonstrate how a single set of values informs the structure of both our classroom and organization. We emphasize that all members of the Compass community participate in, and benefit from, our cultural values, regardless of status as student, teacher, or otherwise.
Presentation 4 Title: Critical Classroom Structures for Empowering Students to Participate in Science
Presentation 4 Authors: Shelly Belleau
University of Colorado at Boulder, and Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts
Presentation 4 Abstract: We compared contextual characteristics that impacted the nature and substance of "summarizing discussions" between a physics and a chemistry classroom in an Hispanic-serving urban high school.  Specifically, we evaluate structural components of curricula necessary to develop a culture of critical inquiry.  Through implementing the Physics and Everyday Thinking (PET) curriculum in the physics course, we found that students' participation in summarizing discussions demonstrated critical thinking, critical evaluation, and use of laboratory evidence to support ideas. We then implemented a model similar to PET in the chemistry course. However, chemistry students' participatory statements lacked evidence, opposition and critical evaluation, and required greater teacher facilitation. We hypothesize that the designed laboratories and the research basis of PET influenced the extent to which physics students verbalized substantive scientific thought, authentic appeals to evidence, and a sense of empowerment to participate in the classroom scientific community. Classroom data and teacher reflections will be discussed.

Footnotes:  Supported by the NSF Noyce Program (DUE # 937941)