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Journal of Education (University of KwaZulu-Natal)

On-line version ISSN 2520-9868
Print version ISSN 0259-479X


CORNELL, Alan  and  PADAYACHEE, Kershree. Revealing shifts from mastery of knowledge to problem solving in assessments of a tertiary physics programme. Journal of Education [online]. 2021, n.83, pp.111-126. ISSN 2520-9868.

There is an increasing pressure on lecturers to work with two goals. First, they need to ensure that their undergraduate students have a good grasp of the knowledge and skills of the intellectual field. In addition, they need to prepare graduates and postgraduates for careers both within and outside of academia. The problem we address in this paper is the way in which assessments may reveal a shift of focus from a mastery of knowledge to a work-focused orientation. We examine this shift through a case study of physics and the sub-discipline of theoretical physics as intellectual fields. The evidence is comprised of assessment tasks given to students at different points of their studies from first year to doctoral level. By examining and analysing the assessment tasks using concepts from Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), we demonstrate how the shifts in the assessments lead students incrementally from a pure disciplinary focus to one that enables them to pursue employment potentially both within and outside of academia. In doing so, we also highlight the usefulness of LCT as a framework for evaluating the preparation of science students for diverse workplaces.

Keywords : physics education; Legitimation Code Theory; epistemic relations; assessment.

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