Physics by fire-hose

On my last prac week, I had an interesting conversation with my mentor teacher about curriculum.  We discussed the silliness of the IB physics curriculum (the best analogy I can think of would be trying to drink physics from a fire-hose) but found we had differing ideas about the most fitting content for a secondary school physics class and really, the purpose of introductory physics altogether.  Coming from a physics research background, I have always tended to think that the most fitting content for an introductory class is mechanics and some basic electromagnetism with maybe a little thermodynamics thrown in.  It’s what you do at uni, and it teaches problem solving and critical thinking skills, not to mention a basic awareness of what’s going on around us in everyday life.  My mentor’s take is that you should try to cover a lot more content than that, including optics and a range of topics relevant to medical physics because students find it interesting and it’s also relevant to their lives.  This brings up the provocation: what will my students want and need from me?  I understand the point that students want to cover more content, to get to the more “interesting” stuff, I just wonder what cost it comes at.  Covering too much content is inevitably going to mean you don’t go into depth, and risk not addressing students’ non-scientific conceptions of physics.  It’s something I still find myself thinking about weeks later.  Maybe the best answer lies in having a true inquiry based classroom where the kids get to explore concepts and the curriculum emerges.  Problem is, the BSSS won’t ever sign off on that.  Will I be allowed to be the teacher I want to be?

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One thought on “Physics by fire-hose

  1. Josh, this caught my eye! interesting relationship to some work i’ve been involved in with history teachers and replicated by OS results – more often teachers trained in history at uni tend to want to cover more ‘important stuff & facts’ and get focussed on content content content whereas those not trained who want to ‘enjoy the stories’ with kids. But, those not trained don’t know how to do history – a catch 22!

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