Sanaz Farhangi

Sanaz Farhangi

School of Integrated Science and Humanity Work – USA

Thesis: Contribution to Learning Science: Using Cultural-Historical Activity Theory to Re-conceptualize Students’ Engagement in Physics

I am Sanaz Farhangi, recently graduated from the PhD program in Teaching and Learning with specification in Science Education at the Steinhart School of culture, education and human development, New York University. I am currently working on a Post Doc project promoting recruiting and retention of women in STEM in Florida International University. I have 10 years of teaching experience in K-12 science and other subjects in Iran. I also have 3 years of experience teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in science and mathematics education program in NYU.

I am trained in polymer science and engineering in Iran but teaching in K-12 schools got me interested in education. After getting my M.Sc. in Polymer Engineering I found myself wondering more about how my students learn science and why many of them have little motivation to do so. As a result I chose to pursue educational research to be able to find answers to my increasing questions.

As a researcher I am interested in theoretical understanding of education, so my research is geared toward a wide area of problems. My dissertation study is focused on underrepresented students’ role and agency in learning in introductory physics courses. In this study I used cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) both as a framework and as a methodology to explore how understanding physics education as opening opportunities for students to contribute to activity of science and science education, can alter the way the students assume in their learning. I proposed Anna Stetsenko’s “contribution to activity” as the lens to understand learning and agency. To practically use this concept, I designed my research as a Change Laboratory based on methods Yrjo Engeström has invented and argued that Change Lab has the power to open up contribution for student to change the activities in their courses.

However, I believe that my research has raised many more questions for me. I think student agency in learning is still under-theorized. I seek to know what motivates people to engage with activities they are not familiar with and why some populations systematically find some activities like learning science unengaging. Also, if we accept contribution to activity as a strong motivator for learning, how can instructors use this concept to organize their teaching-learning activities? And How such a shift in conceptualization might change they way science is taught and practiced? I hope that taking part in 6th ISCAR summer University can help me move toward answering these questions. Moreover, I hope to find a community of like-mind researchers that challenge me and collaborate with me toward transforming education.

Presentation “Contribution to activity: A leans for understanding and promoting student’s agency in learning physics ”

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