Social Semiotics in Physics and Astronomy Education Research - A Spiral Approach to Teaching and Learning

Apr 26, 2018 16:30 - 18:00 CEST
CERN Council Chamber (503-1-001), Route de Meyrin, 1211 Genève, Switzerland

Over recent years, physics and astronomy education research (PAER) has seen a great growth in interest and increase in papers published. The field uses many different approaches and theoretical frameworks for how to understand how teaching and learning physics and astronomy works and could possibly be improved. In this talk I introduce social semiotics as a framework for how to describe teaching and learning physics and astronomy. When entering the physics or astronomy discipline one needs to learn to understand how the discipline communicate the disciplinary knowledge built up over hundreds of years. This communication is done through the use of disciplinary specific semiotic resources (representations, tools, and activities) and for a novice to become part of the discipline, (s)he needs to learn to ”read" and ”write" all these resources—a formidable challenge. As one learns to communicate, using the appropriate semiotic resources, one also grows into, and become a member of, the discipline. This communication starts by discerning intended disciplinary meanings (disciplinary-specific affordances), referred to as disciplinary discernment (Eriksson et al. 2014a), from semiotic resources, which carries many similarities to learning a language. Learning can then be described as coming to discern the intended meanings of disciplinary specific semiotic resources; if one discerns the intended meaning one has also learned what it means for the discipline. The learning process can be tailored in many different ways and here I suggest a spiral approach, where one recursively returns to the same material but with increasing details and disciplinary meanings, taking into account not only disciplinary knowledge, but also disciplinary discernment and spatial thinking (Eriksson et al. 2014b).

Dr. Urban Eriksson works at the National ResourceCenter for Physics Education at Lund university, Sweden and has extensive experience in both teachers education and astronomy. He has a combined PhD in astronomy and physics and astronomy education research (PAER) at Uppsala university, Sweden. His primary research interest is physics and astronomy education in higher education and in particular multidimensional discernment from semiotic resources. Currently, he is investigating astronomy students perception of 3D of nebulae, using 2D images and 3D simulations.

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