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Teaching Physics


This book seeks to narrow the current gap between educational research and classroom practice in the teaching of physics. Research is now moving beyond the recording of the specific forms of common thought to construct and evaluate teaching interventions appropriate to conventional institutional contexts.

The approach adopted here makes a detailed analysis of research findings derived from experiments involving pupils, students and teachers in the field. Clear guidelines are laid down for the development and evaluation of sequences, drawing attention to "critical details" of the practice of teaching that may spell success or failure for the project.
Five sequences illustrate the discussion with the following topics: contact, friction and propulsion, pressure in fluids, superposition of electric fields, superposition of coherent waves and optical imaging, and colour phenomena. This all feeds into a discussion of sequence evaluation procedures, underlining the vital importance of teachers' reactions to the detailed aspects of practice proposed to them.

The book is intended for researchers in science teaching, teacher trainers and teachers of physics.

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Table of Contents

1 / Watersheds.- 1. How and What to Spotlight.- 2. How Much Should be Explained.- 3. Images: Are they always useful?.- 4. Experiments: Are they supposed to help?.- Appendix 1: Some General Intentions Are Very Similar in the Various Syllabuses.- Appendix 2: Why the Pinhole Camera is no Longer on the Syllabus.- 2 / Contact, friction and propulsion.- 1. Laws that Run Counter to Common Sense.- 2. A Method of Spotlighting the Basics.- 3. A Way of Spotlighting Friction: goals and difficulties.- 4. First Elements of Static Friction: step by step.- 5. Analysing the Sequence: lines of attention.- 6. Evaluation of the Sequence with Students.- 7. Reactions of Trainee Teachers.- 8. What Conclusion Should We Draw?.- Appendix 1: The Technique of Fragmented Diagrams.- Appendix 2: Two Situations for Studying Kinetic Friction.- Appendix 3: Trainee Teachers' Comments on the Sequence.- 3 / Pressure in Fluids in the Presence of Gravity.- 1. Questions About the Merits of a Microscopic Approach.- 2. The Macroscopic Level: what quantities "have to be"?.- 3. Fluid Statics: common ideas among students.- 4. A Proposal for the Teaching of Fluid Statics.- 5. Analysing the Sequence: lines of attention.- 6. Evaluation of the Sequence with Students.- 7. Teachers' Reactions.- 8. Conclusion.- Appendix: Main Results of the External Evaluation.- 4 / Superposition of Electric Fields.- 1. Interaction at a Distance and Superposition.- 2. Charges, Fields and Superposition: selected aspects.- 3. Superposition and Causality: common forms of reasoning.- 4. Elements of a Teaching Sequence.- 5. Analysing the Sequence: lines of attention.- 6. Evaluation of the Sequence.- 7. Conclusion.- Appendix 1: Contents Previously Taught to Students Questioned in the Preliminary Survey.- Appendix 2: Electrostatics and Electric Circuits Disconnected: the field in wires.- 5 / Superposition of Waves and Optical Imaging.- 1. Choosing a Model.- 2. Common Difficulties and "Spotlighting" of the Content.- 3. Analysing the Proposal: some elements.- 4. Reactions of In-Service or Trainee Teachers.- 5. Conclusion.- 6 / Colour Phenomena.- 1. A Topic at a Crossroads.- 2. Colour Phenomena and Light: the chosen approach.- 3. Common Ideas: too exclusive a linkage.- 4. A Proposed Sequence.- 5. More Detail, Following the Lines of Attention.- 6. Evaluation of the Sequence.- 7. Teachers' Reactions.- 8. Conclusion.- Appendix 1: Additive and Subtractive Mixing.- Appendix 2: Aspects of Knowledge Whose Acquisition is Evaluated One Year after the Sequence.- Conclusion.- Index of Names.

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