Einsteinian Physics: Challenging the Paradigm for Teaching High School Science

PhD Researcher:Tejinder Kaur

This research focuses on the teaching and learning of Einsteinian physics in high school. Physics concepts are currently introduced to most high school students based on the pre 20th Century paradigm of Newtonian physics that, in turn, makes it very difficult for students to learn and understand physics from an Einsteinian perspective. This research challenges the prevailing approach to high school science and will help to determine how physics can be taught from an Einsteinian perspective. This doctoral study is part of a larger research project supported by the Australian Research Council, the Gravity Discovery Centre Foundation and the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation titled Measuring the Effectiveness of Specialist Science Enrichment Programs.

Why my research is important

This research is focused on the need to change the Australian curriculum. Einsteinian physics gives the best description of the universe. It is important for children of all ages and of all backgrounds to be introduced, in appropriate ways, to our best scientific understanding of the world. It is Einsteinian physics that has had the greatest impact on the modern development of science. Without an understanding of the quantum world there would have been no solar panels, televisions, computers, GPS navigators or nuclear power.

Einsteinian Physics Drama Research Project: Efficacy of Drama as a Pedagogical Tool for Improving Student Motivation and Attitude to Science through Teaching New Physics to Senior Primary School Students

PhD Researcher: Bernard James Carr

The premise of this research is that it is possible, and indeed, beneficial, to use drama to begin to teach basic concepts of Einsteinian Physics (Einsteinian and Quantum) to senior primary school students (12 year old students). The research will test the hypothesis that introducing these topics through drama at this age level will lead to a positive change in student attitude and motivation towards science and an increase in student desire to continue science subjects at a post-compulsory level.

The research project employs a multi-disciplinary pedagogical approach of drama and science, through a 10-hour, integrated science enrichment learning program developed by physicists, science education researchers and teachers. The science drama play and science enrichment program focus on the scientific human endeavour of trying to understand the nature of light, from the ancient Greeks to Einstein and beyond.

Analysis of data collected from in-school research (143 students) was presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) Conference in Pittsburgh USA, 2014. These data provide strong evidence that, after engagement with the drama/physics science enrichment program, the studentsí attitudes to science improved. Furthermore, significant learning of scientific concepts was demonstrated by the students and was retained at virtually the same level when re-tested 6 months after the science enrichment program had been completed.

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