1 Report by GROUP V PHYSICS TEACHER TRAINING HIGH SCHOOL - UNIVERSITY TRAINING GAP IN PHYSICS.
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1 Report by GROUP V PHYSICS TEACHER TRAINING HIGH SCHOOL - UNIVERSITY TRAINING GAP IN PHYSICS
TEAM GARETH JONES (COACH) DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON LONDON (UK) email@example.com M. C. CARMO PHYSICS DEPARTMENT UNIVERSITY OF AVEIRO AVEIRO (PT) firstname.lastname@example.org HAY GEURTS FACULTY OF SCIENCE RADBOUD UNIVERSITY NIJMEGEN (ND) email@example.com MARIA EBEL TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY WIEN PHYSICS DEPARTMENT WIEN (AT) firstname.lastname@example.org OVIDIU CALTUN DEPARTMENT OF SOLID STATE AND THEORETICAL PHYSICS ALEXANDRU IOAN CUZA UNIVERSITY IASI (ROMANIA) email@example.com
Objectives: The main objectives of WG 5 in STEPS were: Understand the interface between high school and university physics departments; Better understand the difficulties of first year university physics students; Survey measures and teaching strategies taken to address the problem; Understand the challenges of high school teaching; Understand the local differences of high school physics teacher training and appointment.
Methodology: Survey the views of university physics departments within the network about the scientific level of incoming students and the interface between high school and university; Survey university physics students in order to understand the main difficulties encountered at university level; Survey the post-Bologna reforms in physics teacher education, training and qualification; Making personal contact with a number of physics teachers in high schools from different European countries; visits to high schools; using guided interviews with a number of high school teachers. This allowed the building up of a few case studies in different European countries.
Interface between high school and university physics departments The gap at the interface between high school and university, mainly concerns students’ abilities in dealing with basic physics concepts, mathematical reasoning and problem solving. There is a general opinion among university staff that the scientific level of incoming students is becoming lower; This has been a continuous process occurring over the last two decades; The general scientific level of the incoming students is considered poor. A point of concern is also the very uneven level of incoming students; The evolution has been particularly negative for mathematics and physics; Improvements have been observed only for computer skills.
Main difficulties felt by first year university physics students Low level in mathematics and specially no previous development of skills in problem solving; Difficulties with basic physics concepts; Steeper learning curve in University compared to high school.
Measures and teaching strategies taken to address the problem Many Physics Departments have taken measures to address first year student’s problems: Refreshment courses in physics and mathematics to level up students; restructure of university curricula; Adopt different teaching strategies: Spend more time with basic concepts and to allow for a more gradual learning; small group teaching; more student guidance (extra tutorials, extra homework, extra time for experiments); e-learning in maths; Extra time for problem solving; Cooperation with high school teachers to improve teaching; workshops for high school teachers; Promote research and discussion of teaching issues; follow up of the situation of incoming students by groups of educational experts.
Challenges of high school teaching Due to physics teacher shortage in many European countries other science teachers are frequently called to teach physics without further training; The laboratories are ill-equipped, classes have a large number of students; The teachers are frequently isolated in schools, the frequent changes in syllabus are not accompanied by the necessary refreshment courses; The students are often very unruly; Administrative work is very heavy; The time devoted in the curricula to physics is not enough for such a demanding subject like physics.
SUMMARY The results of this working group showed that: The gap at the interface between high school and university, mainly concerns students’ abilities in dealing with basic physics concepts, mathematical reasoning and problem solving. The main reasons are: deficient communication between high school and university, frequent changes in high school curricula and little change in university physics curricula, shortage of qualified high school physics teachers, decreasing number of physics teaching hours and a general dilution of physics component of curricula. These multiple causes have led to a lack of interest for physics subjects and a decrease in physics student numbers.
RECOMMENDATIONS University physics departments should play a more pro-active role in: Organizing in service training courses for physics teachers; the continuous training of physics teachers needs to be addressed in the context of new Bologna legislation and Life-Long-Learning. These training programmes should take into account that many teachers teaching physics do not have a physics background; Updating physics teacher’s knowledge and skills; Special attention should be given to training modules in: experimental physics; lecture demonstrations; problem solving and modelling; project guided oriented curricula. Interacting more strongly with education departments in physics teacher training; Bridging the gap between high schools and universities by offering and developing pedagogical materials (experimental packages are specially needed), more interaction activities designed for high school students and teachers;
RECOMMENDATIONS (cont.) University physics departments should also: Be more concerned with the objectives and purposes of high school physics curricula in order to offer a better guidance of first year students Give a special attention to the needs of first year students (e.g: Pre- entrance refresher courses in physics and mathematics to level up students; restructure of university curricula; extra courses); Spend more time with basic concepts and allow for a more gradual learning in the 1st year; Offer more student guidance (extra tutorials, extra homework, extra question /discussion time, more help in planning of experiments); Give extra time for problem solving.
WHAT NEXT? Survey High School Physics Teacher continuous education programmes in EU. What programmes have the universities in place? How can physics departments and education departments cooperate in this area? Identify examples of good practices. How are these programmes integrated in the teacher career?
The group members wish to thank: All partners of the network who kindly answered the questionnaires; The students organization IAPS, who kindly helped with the students questionnaires; High school teachers and head masters interviewed; All group members for the fruitful discussions and suggestions.
SEE DETAILS OF THIS WORK IN THE FOLLOWING ADRESSES http://www.eupen.ugent.be/conf/presentatie/steps_ghent_DoCa rmo.ppt http://www.eupen.ugent.be/conf/egf2007/presentation/egf2007_ reportG5.ppt http://www.eupen.ugent.be/conf/egf2007/presentation/egf2007_ reportG5_part2.ppt