Students of Physics: Listeners, Observers, or Collaborative Participants in the Practice of Physics?

View all tags

Dr. Eugenia Etkina of Rutgers University discusses curricular approaches to teaching physics without losing conceptual and mathematical focus.

Dr. Eugenia Etkina, Rutgers University

Scientists and especially physicists have their own, unique ways of developing new knowledge, solving new problems, and communicating about what they do. These form a set of cultural norms and practices that we call “physics.” Can students become enculturated into physics in a one year introductory course, or does “doing physics” remain the exclusive purview of professionals who have acquired their skills through years of training? Development of the Next Generation Science Standards, revisions to AP® courses, and a new MCAT® suggest that these aspects of physics (and other sciences) are as valuable as the final product of scientific labor—concepts and mathematical representations—that traditionally have been the sole focus of science courses. Science practices are the central elements of all these innovations. In my talk I will describe curricular approaches that make these practices a centerpiece of learning physics without losing conceptual and mathematical focus. Ways to assess these complex practices will also be discussed.