Introducing Students to the Benefits of the Internet

Teachers of advanced high school physics are ideally positioned to introduce their students to the use of the Web and cyberspace technologies for carrying out research. Thus, the training of more computer-savvy professionals could be naturally encouraged within advanced physics programs. If this is to occur, of course, computers will have to be widely available in classrooms, and their presence brings new concerns along with opportunities. The arrival of computers in the classroom is so new that there has not yet been a definitive evaluation of their impact on the learning process, either in general or within the advanced physics community.

Revolution in Scientific Publishing

A revolution in scientific publishing is under way. Physics journals in particular are rapidly migrating toward electronic formats. Already some major U.S. laboratories have begun to phase out their actual libraries in favor of electronic access. Similar experiments have begun at the physics libraries of some of the nation’s research universities. The whole physics publishing enterprise has been radically changed by the creation of electronic archives such as the Los Alamos xxx.lanl.gov server. A decade ago, only the single field of theoretical particle physics used this model. Today most fields of physics, mathematics, and other scientific disciplines are using it, and it has spread to the medical community through the recent creation of a server sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. It is clear that working research scientists already have a new manner of carrying out research. Both national and international collaborative scientific research efforts are supported through cyberspace. New research is created, posted on servers, and downloaded by other scientists, who then synthesize it and create their own new results at a more rapid pace than ever before.



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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics archive for postings, accessible to subscribers only. PhysLrnR maintains a large collection of specialist literature on Physics Education Research (PER) on an ftp server at ftp://physlrnr.idbsu.edu/plrserve/pub/physlrnr/. The list administrative (or control) address is listserv@listserv.boisestate.edu, and postings must be made to PhysLrnR@listserv.boisestate.edu. TAP-L is a smaller list specializing in design and construction of physics laboratory and demonstration apparatus. Members are mainly college and university physics department demonstration and lab coordinators, and PIRA (Physics Instructional Resource Association) members. Postings are archived since 1999, and there is a list webpage at http://members.odyssey1.net/kctipton/tapfaq.html. Uniquely, this list runs a web ring of web sites run by the demonstration and laboratory coordinators at several dozen universities and colleges. The list administrative (or control) address is listproc@listproc.appstate.edu, and postings must be made to tap-l@listserv.appstate.edu. AP-PHYSICS is a list run by the College Board and specializing in the teaching of AP Physics. Information on subscribing is available on the College Board’s website at http://www.collegeboard.org/ap/listserv/list.html. Introducing Students to the Benefits of the Internet Teachers of advanced high school physics are ideally positioned to introduce their students to the use of the Web and cyberspace technologies for carrying out research. Thus, the training of more computer-savvy professionals could be naturally encouraged within advanced physics programs. If this is to occur, of course, computers will have to be widely available in classrooms, and their presence brings new concerns along with opportunities. The arrival of computers in the classroom is so new that there has not yet been a definitive evaluation of their impact on the learning process, either in general or within the advanced physics community. Revolution in Scientific Publishing A revolution in scientific publishing is under way. Physics journals in particular are rapidly migrating toward electronic formats. Already some major U.S. laboratories have begun to phase out their actual libraries in favor of electronic access. Similar experiments have begun at the physics libraries of some of the nation’s research universities. The whole physics publishing enterprise has been radically changed by the creation of electronic archives such as the Los Alamos xxx.lanl.gov server. A decade ago, only the single field of theoretical particle physics used this model. Today most fields of physics, mathematics, and other scientific disciplines are using it, and it has spread to the medical community through the recent creation of a server sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. It is clear that working research scientists already have a new manner of carrying out research. Both national and international collaborative scientific research efforts are supported through cyberspace. New research is created, posted on servers, and downloaded by other scientists, who then synthesize it and create their own new results at a more rapid pace than ever before.

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics Cyberspace Technology in College and High School Classrooms In colleges and universities, experimentation with cyberspace technology and “newtechnology classrooms” is beginning. Computers have already made their way into the traditional college physics laboratory, most significantly in the acquisition and analysis of data. In addition, many college instructors make themselves available to their students via e-mail, enabling questions and discussions to be undertaken at the convenience of both student and instructor. Literature searches are now often done electronically. These developments have implications for the education of secondary school students currently engaged in the advanced study of physics. Various computer software programs are available for the tasks of communication (electronic mail, browsing on the Web, presentational tools, text editing, slide presentation [e.g., Power Point], and IR [infrared] personal response) and computer-assisted conceptualization (modeling environments, spreadsheets, symbolic manipulation, mathematical graphing, computer-aided design, simulation and visualization, and data collection and analysis). All of these tools are used for a wide variety of research carried out by physicists. The panel recommends that these modern research tools be introduced as extensively as possible into advanced high school physics programs. The panel notes that many high schools are already using a number of these tools, especially software for data acquisition and analysis. Communication Among Constituencies with an Interest in Physics Research or Education The rapid speed of communication via CIT presents new opportunities for a closer relationship between the physics research and teaching communities. Many researchers at universities, government laboratories, and other organizations have created Web sites that are freely accessible and designed precisely for the purpose of making their research more available to the general public. The same can be said for the American Physical Society and other professional organizations of physicists. It is therefore possible, as never before, to introduce topics of ongoing research to secondary school students currently studying advanced physics. Using CIT, researchers can best communicate the excitement of their research activity as they grapple with the scientific problems that lie at the boundaries of knowledge in the field. This excitement, when transmitted properly to students, can be a tremendous motivating factor leading them to consider scientific research as a career. In addition, the Web allows easy access to university physics courses from outside university classrooms. Many professors offer Web-based mechanisms for their own students to monitor their courses. Often, course syllabi, homework assignments and solutions, and the like are made available via an appropriate Web site. Such mechanisms also offer exciting new possibilities for more closely linking physics instruction within the universities to that in secondary education programs. The panel recommends that CIT be used in the teaching of

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics advanced high school physics to highlight current state-of-the-art research, thereby encouraging young people to join the nation’s scientific workforce. Future Uses of CIT in Advanced Physics Programs There are a number of ways in which CIT poses challenges to be met in future advanced physics instruction. In this section, we outline the research needed to answer the question: “What might be the form of an advanced physics course in the year 2010?” Because the possibilities are so vast, any categorization of the issues involved in answering this question is to some extent arbitrary. Nevertheless, we provide the following list of issues to provide a framework within which to conceptualize and begin to formulate specific goals and recommendations for the electronic advanced physics classroom of the not-too-distant future. The list is not meant to be exhaustive and is sure to grow as the nation’s educational leadership becomes increasingly aware of the enormous opportunities presented by CIT: What is the appropriate use of CIT in teaching advanced physics courses? In the teaching of advanced physics courses, how is it possible to foster a higher level of skill in the use of modern CIT to acquire, analyze, disseminate, and present data and information? Is it possible to use CIT to close the gap between calculus-based and algebra-based physics courses by developing new computer-based modes of thinking about and handling conceptual and quantitative models of physical reality? What is the best way to foster the development of high-quality CIT-based materials (e.g., hypertext) that will support the teaching of advanced physics courses? What is the appropriate level of teacher training necessary for the effective use of CIT in an advanced physics course? What are the appropriate standards of student attainment and proficiency in the use of CIT that should be required of a student enrolled in a high-quality advanced physics course? What is the appropriate use of the Web as a medium for delivering distance learning in an effort to provide advanced physics instruction to the broadest possible population of students that can benefit from such training? Potential Use of CIT to Administer Final Examinations in Future Advanced Physics Programs In the not-too-distant future, CIT may be able to provide an efficient means of administering and scoring final examinations in advanced programs. If such a process is implemented, the panel makes two recommendations: It is absolutely essential that students retain the ability to return to and modify their answers to previous questions as they take the examination. Physics is a subject in which careful consideration and reconsideration are often required to find a correct

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics solution to a problem. A fair physics test must reflect that essential feature of the discipline. The implications of adaptive questioning (in which succeeding questions depend on the responses given by the student to earlier questions) need to be carefully studied. The panel is skeptical that adaptive schemes can be devised that are truly fair to all candidates. INTERDISCIPLINARY CONNECTIONS An important issue for a field as ancient as physics is how it adapts to the needs of society in a given place and time. The field of physics today faces a period of transition. Among the most important reasons for this are the following: The period in which a primary national need for defense was fulfilled by physicists in creating, developing, and upgrading nuclear weapons has ended. A period in which technology is a primary driver of the national economy has begun. A period in which other areas of science, such as microbiology and genetics, will undergo rapid progress has also begun. The increasing availability, power, and sophistication of computational hardware and software will make possible novel quantitative descriptions of the physical universe. Society in general appears to be rapidly becoming more and more knowledge based. Enormous quantities of information are instantly available on ubiquitous computers. (See the discussion in the preceding section.) Under these circumstances, the tasks that are undertaken by the field of physics must change both to meet the demands of society and to maintain the vitality of the field itself. Physicists, and the people trained by them, will need to be able to apply the body of knowledge developed within physics to totally new areas. In other words, physicists will be asked to become more interdisciplinary; they will have to apply their special knowledge and methods to problems that cross the boundaries of traditional disciplines. This fact has substantial implications for the training of the future physicists presently engaged in the advanced study of physics at the secondary level. It therefore makes sense to examine the two dominant advanced physics programs to determine the extent to which they provide suitable training to students along interdisciplinary lines. The AP Physics program appears to stick closely to the traditional curriculum that has been the hallmark of the field during the last 50 years. There appears to be no attempt within the program to address the increasing importance of applying physics knowledge across traditional field boundaries. On the other hand, the IB program has several features that naturally allow students to begin to confront interdisciplinary issues. First, the IB program provides interdisciplinary options (biomedical physics, historical physics) that teachers may choose. Second, many

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics questions from past IB examinations have an interdisciplinary flavor. Finally, during the Group 4 project component of the IB program, a collaborative group of students creates its own scientific investigation. Such projects can easily involve applying knowledge and methods from several different scientific fields. Increased interdisciplinary content could be added to advanced courses by developing more separate units such as the biomedical physics unit found in the current IB program. Alternatively, the advanced course might choose examples illustrating how fundamental physical principles apply to a wide variety of areas. For example, the elastic properties of DNA molecules might be used to discuss the range of validity of Hooke’s Law for spring forces. Biological cell membranes could be used to construct interesting examples of electrical potential differences and electric fields. The panel, in agreement with the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996), recommends that all advanced high school physics curricula include some experience with interdisciplinary applications of physics. COMPARISON OF AP AND IB PHYSICS WITH EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS Extent to Which the AP and IB Physics Programs Reflect the Recommendations of the National Science Education Standards The panel did not have sufficient time to make a detailed assessment of the extent to which the AP and IB Physics programs incorporate the recommendations of the National Science Education Standards (NSES) (NRC, 1996). The short answer to the question is “not much.” As noted earlier, IB Physics encourages interdisciplinary connections to some extent as recommended by the NSES. Since most advanced courses in physics are designed to mimic college-level courses, and since the college-level courses are not (for better or worse) specifically designed with the NSES in mind, there is no immediate need for the advanced courses to be tightly tied to the standards. However, as more and more high schools adopt curricula in line with the NSES, college courses may evolve to take into account the new background that students then bring with them. We would then expect high school advanced courses to be redesigned as well. Extent to Which the AP and IB Physics Programs Reflect the Recommendations in the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards 2000 The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recently published Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000). This document presents five principles and a series of standards to guide the teaching and learning of K–12 mathematics. The standards are grouped into several categories: Numbers and Operations, Algebra, Geometry, Measurement,

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics Data Analysis and Probability, Problem Solving, Communication, Connections, and Representations. Throughout the Principles and Standards is an emphasis on understanding: “Students must learn mathematics with understanding, actively building new knowledge from experience and prior knowledge.” Indeed, “learning with understanding” may well be the clarion call of the entire document. The standards are intended as goals to be met by all K–12 students.31 These standards do not directly address the issue of advanced physics study in high school. They do, however, provide a strong foundation on which advanced courses can be built. Certainly, it is desirable that any student undertaking the study of advanced physics in high school have met the NCTM standards before beginning that course. It should also be noted that high school physics courses in general, and advanced physics courses in particular, help students solidify their knowledge and skills in mathematics. Advanced physics courses are of special value in reinforcing skills in Measurement, Data Analysis and Probability, Problem Solving, Communication, and Connections and Representations. 31   More information on the standards can be found at the NCTM Web site: http://nctm.org/standards/introducing.htm.

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics 6 Connecting Advanced High School Physics Programs with College Physics Programs One of the principal rationales for advanced study in secondary schools is to enable capable and motivated students to do work that is beyond the normal secondary school level. Advanced study both removes an artificial cap on these students’ learning in high school and facilitates their future learning in colleges and universities. Clearly, our success in nurturing our most talented students depends on just how well we accomplish this task. QUALITY OF PREPARATION OF AP AND IB PHYSICS STUDENTS FOR FURTHER STUDY The College Board presents evidence that students who do well on the AP Physics examinations perform in physics courses beyond the introductory level as well as, or perhaps even a bit better than, students who first encounter introductory physics in the standard college or university course (see for example, CEEB, 1994c). About 10 years ago, one panel member administered the AP Physics B exam to students in that member’s introductory college physics course. There was a good correlation between the students’ performance on the AP exam and their grades in the college course. Both these pieces of evidence can be interpreted as showing that scores on the AP Physics exams are good predictors of success in college physics courses beyond the introductory level. Of course, one might legitimately question whether that is the primary raison d’être of advanced high school courses. One could argue, however, that for those students for whom college placement or credit is a goal, the AP courses are reasonable substitutes for most introductory college-level courses. The IB Physics curriculum is not designed to be a substitute for college-level work. However, the panel believes the IB Physics curriculum provides fine preparation for introductory college-level work in physics. In terms of content, the IB Physics curriculum is roughly equivalent to that of AP Physics B. The demonstrated success of many highly qualified AP students in college courses beyond the introductory level confirms that these students can be as well prepared as those taking the introductory college course. However, there is evidence to suggest that the College Board’s estimation that a score of 3 on an AP examination indicates a student is qualified for

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics advanced placement may be too generous, and in practice, most selective colleges require a score of 4 or 5 for placement or credit (Lichten, 2000). This latter practice is consistent with the panel’s recommendation that a higher standard for qualification on a more conceptually oriented, less rushed examination would be an improvement (see Chapter 2). From this point of view, the successful skipping of introductory college courses by AP students might be construed as an indictment of introductory college physics courses rather than as an endorsement of AP courses. DEPENDENCE OF COLLEGE PHYSICS PROGRAMS ON KNOWLEDGE GAINED FROM ADVANCED HIGH SCHOOL PHYSICS PROGRAMS From the point of view of many college physics departments, there are serious problems with the interface between advanced high school programs and college physics programs. The content of AP courses is designed as an aggregate of the content of many large introductory science courses at major universities. Since these university courses vary widely, “averaging” their content into a single high school course produces a topic outline with greater diversity than any single university course. This holds especially true for the AP Physics B courses. As a result, the AP courses generally cover a content range that is very broad but not very deep. The courses tend to encourage memorization and technical problem solving without deep conceptual understanding, though that is of course not their intent. It is well established that learning of this kind is not easily generalized to new situations. Thus, the potential of physics education to contribute to the development of capable problem solvers is not fully realized. In addition, there are many obstacles to creating a college-level instructional environment in secondary schools. For example, the rapid expansion of the AP program has caused a severe shortage of adequately trained teachers capable of teaching AP courses well (see Chapter 4). For these and other reasons, many of those responsible for granting advanced placement or credit in the colleges and universities doubt at present that students scoring 3 or 4, or in some cases even 5, on AP Physics examinations actually have had experiences warranting the granting of such placement or credit, and some decline to do so. In addition, as noted earlier, many students who have taken AP courses do not even take the AP examinations. The net result of this situation is that many students who have supposedly done college-level work in secondary school are destined to repeat that work once they enter college. Some even decide not to continue in physics rather than follow that path. While some of these students benefit from the college physics courses taken after an AP experience, the lack of coordination between secondary and higher physics education is problematic. IMPROVEMENTS IN COLLEGE PHYSICS INSTRUCTION THROUGH A BETTER INTERFACE WITH ADVANCED HIGH SCHOOL PROGRAMS College courses are subject to the same criticism of excessive breadth that has been made of advanced high school programs, as has been emphasized many times in the physics education research literature.32 These courses often fail both in improving students’ conceptual 32   See Chapter 3 and the discussion of the Introductory University Physics Program evaluations in Coleman, Holcomb, and Rigden (1998).

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics understanding and in motivating them to continue. If high school programs of advanced study were to focus on a somewhat narrower but widely shared range of content, and if the learning process were to emphasize conceptual understanding, college and university physics courses could evolve to build on that content and understanding. For example, suppose that a deeper and more reliable knowledge of Newtonian mechanics could be achieved through advanced study in high school, as recommended in Chapter 2, with performance on examinations correlating well with established measures of conceptual understanding. Then college courses for graduates of advanced physics programs could reduce the time spent on mechanics and devote some of the time saved to topics that are conceptually difficult, such as electromagnetic fields. The net result would be enhanced student understanding at both levels. It might also be possible, with some of the time saved, to include more contemporary physics.33 It is unfortunate that many of our most talented and advanced physics students spend 3 years surveying essentially the same material of classical physics (2 secondary years and 1 college year). As discussed earlier, their motivation and knowledge would be enhanced by some exposure to physics as it has evolved in the last few decades. This cannot be done properly in the time available unless some greater success in coordinating secondary and higher-level physics courses can be achieved. Of course, not all students entering college will have studied advanced physics in high school, and that fact must also be taken into account when designing college course offerings. How to derive the optimum benefit from the physics background of incoming students is an issue that colleges will need to study carefully in the future. RECOMMENDATIONS The panel makes the following recommendations for creating a reliable interface between advanced high school and college physics programs: As discussed in Chapter 2, all advanced high school programs should seek to develop competence in Newtonian mechanics that emphasizes deep conceptual understanding, even if the coverage of other topics must be reduced. Final assessments must be modified to test for conceptual understanding and the ability to apply basic physical principles to situations not previously encountered. Colleges and universities and writers of textbooks should develop introductory courses and materials that take advantage of this enhanced understanding of Newtonian mechanics among the rapidly growing population of advanced high school program graduates. The amount of duplication between the high school and college courses could then be reduced, making possible a decrease in the excessive breadth of many of the college courses as well. 33   The new IB Physics syllabus includes particle production and annihilation; fundamental interactions; and an overview of leptons, quarks, and exchange bosons. The panel applauds the addition of these contemporary physics topics to the IB program.

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics 7 Main Findings and Overall Recommendations This chapter summarizes the panel’s main findings and overall recommendations. References to earlier chapters are provided to help the reader find more comprehensive discussion of these important issues. The most important goals of advanced physics instruction are independent of the particular topics studied. Advanced physics instruction should be aimed at generating excitement and enthusiasm for further study in physics, at achieving deep conceptual understanding of the subject matter covered, and at instilling in students the scientific habits of mind that are important for their further education in science. Learning any particular physics subject matter is of lesser importance (see Chapter 2). All advanced physics programs should aim to develop deep conceptual understanding of the topics studied. To achieve the above goals, it is essential that whatever topics are chosen be addressed in depth, with an emphasis on conceptual understanding rather than on technical problem-solving skills. Students must learn that physics knowledge is built on general principles and gain the confidence to apply those principles to unfamiliar situations (see Chapters 2 and 3). It is critical that advanced physics programs allow enough time for extended debate, student-designed experimentation, and other activities necessary to develop depth of understanding. There must also be sufficient time for teachers to diagnose the current state of understanding of their students and to change their teaching techniques and objectives accordingly. Of course, it is impossible to assess the understanding of students without requiring them to explain their reasoning. The panel strongly recommends that explanations of reasoning be required from the first day of an advanced course, so that providing such explanations quickly becomes automatic for all students in whatever they do in the course (see Chapter 4). For these reasons, very broad curricula, such as 1-year AP Physics B courses, should either be extended to 2 years (as is done in IB Physics) or eliminated in favor of more compact curricula that can be covered in depth (see Chapters 2 and 3).

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics All students of advanced physics should study a nationally standardized one-semester unit in Newtonian mechanics. This unit should have the coverage of current AP Physics C Mechanics (including rotational dynamics), but should not require formal calculus. The study of Newtonian mechanics provides an ideal framework for developing the scientific habits of mind and deep conceptual understanding that are the primary goals of advanced physics instruction. Since familiarity with Newtonian mechanics is universally expected of students who have completed an advanced high school physics program, it is logical to create a standardized mechanics unit to serve as the foundation of all advanced physics study. College physics departments could then depend on a thorough knowledge of this unit in developing courses for the further education of advanced physics students (see Chapters 2 and 6). This new common unit should contain all the important physics currently found in the AP Physics C Mechanics curriculum, including rotational dynamics. To permit the study of the common mechanics unit by all advanced physics students, however, knowledge of formal calculus should not be required (see Chapter 2). It is important to understand that the omission of formal calculus would have no adverse impact on achieving the important goals of advanced physics instruction. On the contrary, it would permit increased emphasis on conceptual understanding by eliminating the need to spend time studying calculus-intensive problems. For example, students would no longer need to be able to perform path integrals to find the work done by a force, but they would need to understand the connection between work and kinetic energy change. They would also have to be able to find the work done by a force that varies as a function of position by using the area under the force curve. We note that this recommendation is in keeping with the recent trend on AP Physics C examinations to reduce the emphasis on mathematical complexity. When the concepts of calculus are essential to the development of the physics, these concepts can be introduced in other ways. For example, instantaneous velocity can be introduced as the slope of a tangent line to the graph of displacement versus time. Finally, the panel stresses that the examination for the common mechanics unit is likely to be more difficult than the present AP Physics C Mechanics examination. For one thing, research has shown that students have more difficulty with the kinds of conceptual questions that would make up the new examination than with problems that can be solved by mathematical techniques. In addition, successful students will be expected to be thoroughly familiar with the new mechanics unit, and the standards for success on the examination will be higher than they are now. The consolidation of mechanics into a single common unit does not by any means represent a lowering of present standards, but quite the opposite (see Chapter 2). In a 1-year advanced physics program, students should study only one major area of physics in addition to Newtonian mechanics. To keep the size of the curriculum manageable, the panel strongly recommends that 1-year programs cover only one other major area of physics beyond Newtonian mechanics. There should be great flexibility in the choice of the optional topic to be covered in the second

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics semester, including the possible choice of a nontraditional unit designed to provide advancement by enrichment. (See Chapter 2.) Meaningful real-world (laboratory) experiences should be included in all advanced physics programs. There is ample evidence that traditional “cookbook” laboratories do not meet this standard. The panel strongly believes that real-world experiences are an essential part of advanced physics study. Science is distinguished from other ways of thinking by its reliance on evidence about the physical world and the importance of reproducible consistency in judging the truth of conjectures, laws, and theories. However, these experiences must be meaningful; that is, the educational benefits derived from the activities must be worth the time and effort expended. There is ample evidence that traditional cookbook laboratories do not meet this standard (see Chapter 2). Teachers of advanced programs must be able to respond to their ongoing assessment of their students' understanding (see Chapter 4). Therefore, curricula that require spending specific amounts of time on particular subject areas or on certain kinds of activities should be avoided. The scoring of written examinations must emphasize the evaluation of student understanding. A rigid scoring rubric in which points are awarded for very specific correct responses to small parts of each question is not appropriate; rather, the reader should evaluate the student’s response as a whole. A maximum score should be given only for complete and clear physical reasoning leading to the correct conclusions. The recent trend toward increased emphasis on conceptual understanding should continue. Because the final assessments in advanced programs involve high stakes, students and teachers tend to do whatever they must in order to score well on those assessments. This fact makes it absolutely imperative that the examinations measure the depth of understanding that is the fundamental goal of advanced physics instruction (see Chapter 2). The assessment of understanding necessitates requiring students to explain their reasoning and evaluating those explanations. Since there is no way to anticipate all possible correct and incorrect explanations, it is impossible to perform this evaluation within the confines of a rigid scoring rubric. Current rigid rubrics must therefore be abandoned in favor of a more flexible approach in which each student’s response is evaluated as a whole. This is the approach taken in grading essay questions in the humanities or social sciences, without any apparent problems due to lack of consistency in evaluation. Moreover, one member of the panel participated in an experiment in which AP Physics examinations were graded in this fashion, and the consistency of the evaluation turned out to be at least as good as under the rigid scoring rubric (see Chapter 2).

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics The panel recommends that sufficient time be allowed for students to complete the entire final examination (see Chapter 2). Final examinations must measure what students know, not how fast they can recall and apply that knowledge. The standards for success on final assessments should be raised. The panel believes that if its recommended curriculum changes are implemented, successful students will know the material in the new, more manageable curricula thoroughly. Therefore, the panel recommends high standards of performance on the new final examinations (see Chapter 2). More well-qualified teachers are desperately needed for advanced physics programs. A concerted effort should be made throughout the physics community to contribute to the training of highly skilled physics teachers. Peer assessment programs should be implemented for certification and continuing assessment of physics teaching skill. With the continued growth of advanced physics programs across the nation, there is a severe shortage of qualified teachers for such programs. The panel endorses a concerted effort by all elements of the physics community to train more qualified teachers. It is also imperative that the salaries and professional status of physics teachers be raised to make them competitive with those of other professionals, so that sufficient talent will be attracted to the physics teaching profession (see Chapter 4). The panel also recommends that, as is done in other professions (e.g., medicine), peer assessment programs be implemented for the certification of physics teachers and the continuing evaluation of their teaching skill. On this matter, we endorse the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; however, we recommend that peer assessment be discipline-specific rather than for all sciences. The preparation and skill of the teacher is the principal factor that determines the ultimate success or failure of advanced physics instruction. Thorough understanding of the subject matter is a necessary but not sufficient condition for good physics teaching. Teachers must also be trained in the special pedagogy of physics. The panel stresses that implementations of advanced physics programs differ widely from school to school. The way in which a program is implemented by a given teacher is often much more important than the choice of which program to implement (see Chapter 4). Skilled physics teachers continually diagnose the understanding of their students and change their objectives and strategies as that diagnosis indicates. It is impossible to assess the understanding of students without requiring them to explain their reasoning. (See Chapter 4.)

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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, Report of the Content Panel for Physics Advanced courses should have greater interdisciplinary content and make increasing use of cyberspace and information technology. Modern developments in both science and society as a whole indicate that physicists will be increasingly called upon to address problems that cross the boundaries between traditional disciplines (see Chapter 5). At the same time, the explosion of information technology provides a vast array of possibilities for improving advanced physics instruction (see Chapter 5). Teachers and administrators should be aware of these developments and help advanced physics programs expand their involvement in both areas over time. Information technology should be used to create networks that will enable teachers, college faculty, and other professionals to share information useful for advanced physics teaching. The Internet provides a rapid mechanism for exchanging ideas and information among professionals interested in advanced physics instruction. The panel encourages the continued expansion of networks of such professionals. Such networks are a powerful means of encouraging the creation of a professional community of physics teachers, consistent with the panel’s recommendations for peer assessment (see recommendation 10) and greater emphasis on professional development (see Chapters 4 and 5). Fairness must be ensured on future computerized final assessments for advanced physics programs. The panel is aware that the use of information technology may allow more efficient administration of nationwide examinations for advanced physics programs. However, the panel stresses the importance of ensuring that these more efficient assessments remain fair to all candidates. Given the scarcity of data on the long-term outcomes of physics education, an effort should be made as soon as possible to follow the progress of physics students over many years. The panel believes there are far too few data on the long-term outcomes of physics education to allow important decisions about the physics education of large numbers of students to be made with confidence.

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