Teaching Tips

Transitioning to inquiry- and modeling-based conceptual physics

If your school is thinking about implementing inquiry- and modeling-based pedagogy for physics, Dale Van Deven, Principal, Southern Boone High School in Missouri, has some words of advice beyond providing professional development for teachers and obtaining appropriate equipment and curricula. Here is a summary from a longer article that he wrote as their school implemented Physics First:

Communicate frequently with parents and students about the program: use email, registration days, back to school night, parent/teacher conferences, and any other opportunity that arises.
Organize a Physics Open House for parents, and have them conduct experiments from Physics First classes.
As an administrator, be highly involved with this program, and educate yourself on the pedagogy used.
There are bound to be some “growing pains.” Administrators must be willing to listen and to get involved in the transition.
Lighten the load for the Physics First teachers, since this program will consume much of their time in the first couple of years.
Give teachers time to observe and to collaborate with other teachers in the program.
Help develop communication between the math and science teachers, and have them develop consistent terminology.

Physics First offers great promise in terms of student learning and achievement. To help enable their success, principals must be willing to make those commitments.
Dale’s article was published in the August 2010 issue of the A TIME for Physics First Newsletter.