Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Engineering and Science Education

Committee Chair/Advisor

Hazari, Zahra

Committee Member

Potvin , Geoff

Committee Member

Klotz , Leidy

Committee Member

Benson , Lisa

Committee Member

Vargas , Penelope


This research is based on two motivations that merge by means of the frameworks of interdisciplinary affinity and physics identity. First, a goal of education is to develop interdisciplinary abilities in students' thinking and work. But an often ignored factor is students interests and beliefs about being interdisciplinary. Thus, this work develops and uses a framework called interdisciplinary affinity. It encompasses students interests in making connections across disciplines and their beliefs about their abilities to make those connections. The second motivation of this research is to better understand how to engage more students with physics. Physics identity describes how a student sees themselves in relation to physics. By understanding how physics identity is developed, researchers and educators can identify factors that increase interest and engagement in physics classrooms. Therefore, physics identity was used in conjunction with interdisciplinary affinity. Using a mixed methods approach, this research used quantitative data to identify the relationships interdisciplinary affinity has with physics identity and the physics classroom. These connections were explored in more detail using a case study of three students in a high school physics class. Results showed significant and positive relationships between interdisciplinary affinity and physics identity, including the individual interest and recognition components of identity. It also identified characteristics of physics classrooms that had a significant, positive relationship with interdisciplinary affinity. The qualitative case study highlighted the importance of student interest to the relationship between interdisciplinary affinity and physics identity. It also identified interest and mastery orientation as key to understanding the link between interdisciplinary affinity and the physics classroom. These results are a positive sign that by understanding interdisciplinary affinity and physics identity together, researchers and educators can make progress towards development of interdisciplinary affinity and better engagement in the physics classroom. There are several interesting paths for future research that incorporate other important frameworks in education research. These offer even more opportunities for improving education research and practice.



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