The importance of gaining legitimate physics experiences to an undergraduate’s identity development as a physicist
Paul Irving, Michigan State University
Relatively recent reports from the White House and Congress indicate that the STEM community must rise to the challenge of recruiting and retaining students to achieve the mandate of producing one million additional college graduates with degrees in STEM. However, the number of students choosing to pursue and persist with physics as a degree has had a stagnated growth rate when compared to other STEM fields. The development of a subject-specific identity is a strong influence on students' persistence in a discipline and is a productive lens through which to study physics identity development. To understand a subject specific identity and its relationship to a professional identity the communities of practice framework was used as a lens to examine several data sources that span the experiences of both STEM undergraduates and undergraduate physics students. The communities of practice framework highlights the importance of students engaging in the legitimate practices of a discipline while being guided in those legitimate practices by a more central member of that community. The focus of this presentation is to examine the effect legitimate experiences such as those found in undergraduate research or the PHYS 170 laboratory here at MSU have on a student’s views of doing physics and their place within their physics and science related communities of practice. The presentation will make a case for why it is important to offer the opportunity for students to obtain a greater amount of legitimate experiences during their undergraduate science careers.