Colloquium - Dr. Zahra Hazari

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Venue:ZEB 325 (Dean's Conference room)

Obscuring power structures in the physics classroom: Linking teacher positionality, student engagement, and physics identity development

Dr. Zahra Hazari Clemson University

In the process of reforming physics education over the last several decades, a natural tension has developed between compelling students to leave their comfort zones and engage with the content more meaningfully on the one hand, and helping them identify with physics so they are personally motivated in their learning, on the other. Research has found that many students are disempowered in physics classes, finding them to be more difficult, unpleasant, narrow, and masculine when compared to other subjects. So the question arises: what can physics teachers do to help students engage in learning physics in more personally meaningful ways? Employing a physics identity and positionality framework, I examine how teacher positionality influences student engagement and physics identity development. I will draw on evidence from a national survey study and qualitative case studies of four high school physics teachers (NSF 0624444 and 0952460). The findings indicate that certain behavioral cues from teachers, particularly social cues, can help obscure power structures in the physics classroom and moderate students’ engagement and ultimately impact their physics identity development. Biography

Zahra Hazari is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering & Science Education at Clemson University. Before completing a Ph.D. in science education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto, she earned a B.S. in physics and mathematics and an M.S. in physics. She was a national postdoctoral fellow of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Her work is currently supported by a National Science Foundation CAREER grant from the Discovery Research K-12 Program and an NSF Gender grant, and has been featured in Science Magazine, the American Physical Society News, and Scientific American.