Professional Identity and the Culture of Physics

Students riding bicycles

How does professional identity and the culture of physics affect physics learning and teaching education and practice? 

In this research area we examine the teaching and learning of university physics in terms of building a professional identity. What kind of professional identity can be created in the encounter with the culture of physics and how is this identity affected by factors such as socio-economic group, cultural background, gender, etc.? Some examples include: How well the goal of creating future physics teachers resonates with the goal of creating future physicists, and how does this relate to optimizing teacher education; and, exploring how students learn to participate in physics as a discipline.  

Current projects

Our research in the area of physics teacher education and the culture of physics has bearing on questions of the recruitment and retention of all students who read physics as part of their degree programme.  

  • The professional identity of Swedish physics teachers
    In this project we have analysed interviews with the people that trainee physics teachers meet during their education and found a number of competing discourse models. In future work we will interview trainee physics teachers themselves to document the ways in which these discourse models may affect physics teacher professional identity.

  • Building a professional identity: A comparative study of physics teacher training in four countries 
    In an extension of the above project, parallel data will be collected in Finland, Singapore, Austrialia and the United Kingdom. The aim is to compare the possibilities for building a professional identity across these countries.

  • Becoming a physicist
    This project takes issues of recruitment and retention as its starting point. Using a discourse and identity perspective on physics studies and qualitative inquiry methods such as participant observation and group interviews, the project explores questions like: How is the culture of physics experienced and constructed by students?

  • Theoretical perspectives on physics teacher education
    In this collaboration we are interested in what knowledge, skills and dispositions are important for physics teachers, what is specific to teachers of physics compared to other disciplines, and how should we prepare competent physics teachers.​

  • Academic Integration
    Transitions of beginner students into the academic culture, primarily in science and technology, are investigated in this interdisciplinary action-research project. Findings inform the development of activities for improving academic integration and have resulted in a study guide for new students - Lär för din framtid


Collaboration and Practice

Our work in the area of social identity and the culture of physics is carried out in close collaboration with the Centre for Gender Research and the Department of Education at Uppsala University. This collaboration involves, for example, cooperation on the supervision of PhD students.
International collaboration includes working with colleagues at the National Sciences and Science Education Group,  National Institute of Education in Singapore; the SUPER research group, University of Sydney, Australia; the University of Cambridge, UK;  Åbo Akademi, Finland;  Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University; and, the Department of Physics, Seattle Pacific University, 

We are interested in how the system of teaching and learning of physics can be changed in order to meet the needs of diverse student groups.