Norwegian version
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Public defense: Trine Foyn

Trine Foyn will defend her thesis: “No heroes, no villains: uncovering the mundanity of gender in the mathematics classroom” for the degree of PhD in Educational Sciences for Teacher Education.

Trial lecture

The trial lecture starts at 10:00 in Zoom.

Title: "Locating the global-national influences on classroom cultures and identity through ethnographic research".

Zoom link to the trial lecture and public defense (

Password: 358072

Public defense

The candidate will defend her thesis at 12:15.

Title of the thesis: "No heroes, no villains: uncovering the mundanity of gender in the mathematics classroom".

Zoom link to the trial lecture and public defense (

Password: 358072

Ordinary opponents

Leader of the public defense


Digital defense information

Due to limitations on physical participation as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the public defense will be conducted as a webinar on the Zoom digital platform.

The link to the trial lecture and digital defense in Zoom will be available via link on this page. OsloMet students and employees use OsloMet account ( Others can download Zoom ( or use a browser.

How to oppose ex auditorio

Please send your question to the host during the break, before the second opponent begins. Raise your digital hand by clicking "Participants" at the bottom of the Zoom window and choose "Raise Hand" if you want to voice the question yourself after both opponents have finished their questions. The technical administrator will ask to activate your microphone. Click Yes.

Publication of the approved PhD thesis

Request a copy of the PhD thesis by e-mail. Include the name of the PhD candidate.

  • Abstract

    Current domestic debate about school and gender in Norway focuses on concerns about boys’ underperformance in comparison to girls, and its relation to their higher drop-out rate from upper secondary school. In general, girls perform at a higher level than boys. However, mathematics is an exception to this picture; boys perform better in national tests in grades 5, 8 and 9, while at the end of grade 10, the final year of lower secondary school, girls perform slightly better than boys. At the same time, Norway struggles to recruit female students to the STEM field, despite national campaigns designed to convince girls that there is a career pathway for them in within the STEM. Arguing that the debate about gender and mathematics in Norway is insufficiently nuanced to understand or address these patterns, this thesis explores what happens in one mathematics classroom as its students move from grade 8, when they start lower secondary school, to grade 10, the final year before they choose the educational pathway that they will follow.

    Thus, the main research question of this ethnographically- inspired study asks how gender is played out in a mathematics classroom. Using the theoretical lens of Figured Worlds offered by Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner & Cain (1998), I explore the ways in which students fashion their sense of self as mathematics learners within this class. Acting as a participant observer I observed lessons over the three years from 8th to 10th grade, conducted focus group interviews, collected artefacts such as students’ diary notes and copies of the teacher’s records, and carried out final in-depth interviews with 19 students in the last semester of grade 10.

    The thesis first presents an analysis of the figured world of Class A, the social context in which the students live out being mathematics students. It identifies conflicting discourses of care and competition – ‘bildung’ versus achievement - which fluctuate in their relative strength over time. It also establishes the presence of a group of boys who hold a prominent position in the classroom which is connected to ‘smartness’ and a position of power in the classroom as a whole. This is followed by an analysis of six of the students’ narratives of self, arranged in pairs: two high achieving boys, two high achieving girls and two students, a girl and a boy, who struggle with mathematics. Focusing on how the students negotiate agency in their self-authoring as mathematics students, I explore how those who are apparently positioned in identical subgroups in the class are in fact on different trajectories in Class A.

    The thesis explores the complex interplay of social context, discourses of mathematics and learning, the role of figures and cultural models and their own history in person in the ways in

    which students author themselves as a response to the figured world of Class A. It reveals how gender is refracted through the cultural models of ‘smartness’ and effortless work and the hidden nature of this aspect of gender and mathematics. It is unconsciously played out by the actors in this classroom, and position becomes disposition; the girls are never positioned in ways that might challenge the gendered nature of mathematics in Class A. However, I argue that these hidden and gendered aspects of the classroom do not necessarily mean that boys are in a more advantageous situation than girls. A close analysis of students’ agency indicates a more complex situation in which occupation of a space that seems to be connected to power and privilege such as being one of the ‘smart boys’ does not an automatically confer benefits.

    This study does not aim to identify heroes or villains. Rather, it aims to draw attention to the hidden nature of gender and mathematics in a Norwegian classroom. Following the theoretical framework of Figured Worlds, I argue that changing a situation of uneven distribution of power, privilege and opportunities requires collective awareness which goes beyond individual actions. Without this, it is not possible to redirect actions towards a more inclusive environment, for all students in a classroom.