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Undergraduates talk about their choice to study physics at university: What was key to their participation?

Rodd, M; Reiss, M; Mujtaba, T; (2013) Undergraduates talk about their choice to study physics at university: What was key to their participation? Research in Science and Technological Education , 31 (2) pp. 153-167. 10.1080/02635143.2013.811072. Green open access

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Abstract

Background The research on which this article is based was commissioned because of concerns about perceived shortages of willing and able young people choosing to study physics at university. Purpose This article reports on first year physics undergraduates' narratives of why they are studying physics and uses these narratives to identify reasons for their choice. Design and method Narrative-style interviewing with a purposive sample of first year undergraduates yielded data that revealed complexities around decision making, including choice of university course. Analysis of the texts was informed by psychoanalytical notions rooted in the work of Sigmund Freud. These psychoanalytical notions were used both in generating the interview data - the undergraduate volunteer interviewees were conceptualised as 'defended subjects' - and in analysing these interviews in order to conjecture how unconscious forces might figure in young people's decision making. Results After analysing the interviews with physics undergraduates, with respect to the question 'why are they reading physics?', the claim is that identification with a key adult is an important element in an individual's participation. On the other hand, we discerned no evidence that experience of the sorts of innovation typically designed to increase physics uptake - for example 'fun projects' or competitions - had been key with respect to a desire to read physics. Conclusion Attempts to recruit more students to university to study physics should note that a young person who identifies with a significant adult associated with physics, typically a teacher or family member, is in a good position to believe that physics is a subject that is worth studying. © 2013 Copyright 2013 The Author(s). Published by Routledge. This is an Open Access article. Non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly attributed, cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way, is permitted. The moral rights of the named author(s) have been asserted.

Type: Article
Title: Undergraduates talk about their choice to study physics at university: What was key to their participation?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/02635143.2013.811072
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1521552
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