How Urban Youth Express Critical Agency In A 9™ Grade Conceptual Physics Classroom
"An array of data suggests that American students do not have a deep comprehension of physics and remain disenfranchised from a physics education. Drawing upon critical feminism, funds of knowledge and Freire, I developed the idea of critical physics agency to describe instances in which students expressed rigorous knowledge and skills in physics but also used physics to pursue goals for personal and community transformation. The research questions explored in this study include:
1. What do five urban youth, enrolled in a 9th grade conceptual physics course, articulate as their critical goals — their goals for participation in physics, for participation in relationships, and for personal and community transformation?
2. In what ways do students work towards their goals in their physics classroom? Specifically:
- What mechanisms do youth use to pursue their critical goals?
- How do youth transform curriculum to shape the figured world of their classroom?
3. What are the relationships among critical goals, youth identity, utilization of resources and how youth use physics as a context and tool for agency?
The research is qualitative and took place in an under-resourced public school in New York. Data collected included interviews of five students and their families and teachers, student work, classroom observations, field notes and reflection on my role in the study as a teacher-researcher. I analyzed data using principles of grounded theory.
Students articulated critical goals related to: learning, finding opportunities for voice, altering participation in relationships and participating in the world, as activists. Youth, using physics as both a context and a tool, relied on three mechanisms to progress towards their critical goals: a) pursuit of physics related careers, b) engaging in and creating opportunities to learn physics content and skills, and c) taking on the role of a scientist. Youth also expressed agency by envisioning and enacting lesson plans for their
physics classroom. How youth revealed agency was linked to their identity and funds of knowledge. Choice, inquiry-based curriculum, opportunities to cultivate specialized epistemic authority, and the process of engaging in action research were key resources that students drew upon."
Type of Publication
Basu, Sreyashi Jhumki
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America