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Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 699–728 | Cite as

Different habitus: different strategies in teaching physics? Relationships between teachers’ social, economic and cultural capital and strategies in teaching physics in upper secondary school

  • Susanne EngströmEmail author
  • Carina Carlhed
Article

Abstract

With environmental awareness in the societies of today, political steering documents emphasize that all education should include sustainable development. But it seems to be others competing ideals for teaching physics, or why do the physics teachers teach as they do? Physics teachers in secondary school in Sweden have generally, been focused on facts and a strong link with scientific theories and concepts. In general, the curriculum sway the teaching, a standard text book in physics is used, the teaching is organized according to the book and the teacher deals with and demonstrates typical tasks on the whiteboard and group work is common for special issues related to tasks from the textbook or elaborating. The aim with this study is to analyze why physics teachers in upper secondary school choose to teach energy as they do. Data emerging from a questionnaire focused on indicators of the teachers’ cultural and economic assets, or capital, according to the work of Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology. Especially his concept on life styles and habitus provide a tool for analysis. We focus on physics teachers’ positions in the social space, dispositions and standpoints towards the ideal way to teach physics in upper secondary school (n = 268). Our response rate is 29 % and due to the low response rate a non response bias analysis was made. In our analysis we primarily sought for groups, with a cluster analysis based on the teaching practice, revealed common features for both what and how they teach and three different teaching types emerged. Then we reconstructed the group habitus of the teachers by analyzing dispositions and standpoints and related those to the specific polarization of sacred values, that is struggles about the natural order (doxa) in the social space of science education, which is a part of and has boundaries to dominating fields like the natural sciences and the political fields (curriculum etc.). Three teacher-groups’ habituses are described and analyzed; (1) The Manager of the Traditional, (2) The Challenger for Technology and (3) The Challenger for Citizenship. By constructing the habitus of the teachers in the different groups we can explain why teachers teach as they do and thereby make a contribution to both science education research and to teaching training, whereas reflective approach which also includes the individual dispositions and representations are paramount. In our paper we elaborate the grounds and implications of these findings further.

Keywords

Physics teachers Physic teaching Upper secondary school Habitus Life styles 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Education, Culture and CommunicationMälardalen UniversityVästeråsSweden
  2. 2.Department of EducationUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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