Magdalena Kersting

Magdalena Kersting

Tenure Track Assistant Professor

I am an educational researcher, physics educator & science communicator working to bring great science education to as many people as possible.

  • As an educational researcher, I study the embodied underpinnings of science cognition. Currently, I am an assistant professor of science education at the Department of Science Education at the University of Copenhagen. I am also a coordinator of the Special Interest Group Languages & Literacies in Science Education of the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA).

  • As a physics educator, I draw on my background in mathematical physics to modernise the physics curriculum. I am the main editor of Teaching Einsteinian Physics in Schools, and I received the International Astronomical Union PhD Prize for my educational reconstruction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. I am also affiliated with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

  • As a science communicator, I try to tie science into our society, and I love to get people excited about modern physics. I am a graduate of journalism school Freie Journalistenschule Berlin, and my work has appeared on The Science Show on ABC, the New Philosopher magazine (where I have been both winner and runner-up of the Writer’s Award), German physics podcast Sag mal, du als Physiker, and Norwegian science magazine Titan.

Primary fields of research

My research lies at the crossroads of science education and embodied cognition, and I investigate the fundamental role of embodiment in science learning. 

My interest in embodied science education has evolved out of my PhD project in general relativity education. Einstein’s theory of relativity is one of the most abstract domains of scientific thought, and it was fascinating to observe students’ embodied learning strategies while they grappled with disembodied concepts such as curved spacetime. These days, I study the role of the body in science learning and how embodiment enables and restricts students’ abilities to think scientifically.

Embodied cognition is an interdisciplinary research programme with rich  historical roots. Therefore, I approach my research with curiosity and an openness to methods and theories from other disciplines, including history & philosophy of science, cognitive science, and psychology. Physics education and technology-enhanced science education are two important areas in which I have applied and tested embodied cognition perspectives.

My methodological expertise lies in the combination of design-based research and video analyses, including interaction analysis and video observation manuals. This combination is well suited to study embodied learning processes: while design-based research allows developing and re-iterating embodied designs, video methods allow conducting fine-grained empirical research that feeds back into the design cycles. 

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