Learning in physics group work - Dynamics, variation and the experience of relevance
Paper i proceeding, 2008

In this presentation, we thematise the process of learning in the context of physics group work. Empirically, we base our analysis on data from a university context. Students’ discussions while working in small groups of three or four with physics problems concerning force and friction were captured on video and audio, and the subsequent analysis primarily relies on transcriptions. Theoretically, we make use of the phenomenographic notion of variation as the basic mechanism of learning, illustrating empirically how experiencing variation around a particular aspect of an object of learning drives the potential for experiencing it in a qualitatively different way. We see the realisation of this potential as being tied to an experience of relevance – that students connect the structure of this variation to meaning, which is consistent with other parts of their experience of the situation as a whole. The structural and the referential aspects of the object are intuitively reorganised, and the object reconstituted through the experience of variation. This can be related initially to the relevance structure of the situation, and then to the dynamic of the structuring of awareness in line with Gurwitsch’s links of pointing relevance, linking theme to thematic field in a dynamic of sense-making through relevance. In this way, we identify and describe critical steps in the students’ learning. In our results, we identify and illustrate: o how students together create variation with respect to an object of learning; o how students relate different parts of the whole learning object to one another and to the whole; o how the presence and experience of variation is necessary, but not sufficient for learning; o and how the presence of an experience of relevance is necessary for learning.

learning dynamics

higher education

physcis educaiton



Åke Ingerman

Göteborgs universitet

Maria Berge

Chalmers, Tillämpad informationsteknologi

Presented at the EARLI SIG 9 meeting, Kristianstad, May 2008