On solving science problems in a discursive space of learning
The aim of this licentiate thesis is to analyze the interactive processes in group
work, and, in particular, group work in higher education. The guiding research interest
is to explore both 'what' and 'how' students learn when discussing physics
in group work, with a focus on both the social and physics content of the students'
practice. The two studies presented in this licentiate thesis are mainly based on data
that consists of four video-recordings of groups of students solving physics
problems. The students came from two different engineering programs at Chalmers
University of Technology.
The first study is written from a situated learning perspective and uses positioning
theory to analyze how practice and identity are negotiated by the students
in their moment-to-moment interactions. One group session was, with the help of
positioning theory, described in terms of five storylines. The storylines describe
both the alternative ways in which the students seek solutions to the physics problem
and how they position themselves and each other as 'knowledgeable physics
student(s)' or as 'humorous person(s)'. Both discursive barriers and possibilities
are distinguishable within these five storylines.
The second study is written from a phenomenographic perspective where variation
is taken as the basic mechanism of learning. From three group works five
different partial learning objects were found and categorized. However, the five
partial learning objects were not discussed separately or in any set order. Further,
an analysis of the space of learning showed that the students created variation together
and thereby expanded the space of learning – the learning possibilities offered
in the situation. The study also exemplifies that although the students experience
variation this is not sufficient for their learning – the presence of an experience
of relevance is also necessary.