ICPE Chair Reports on Activities and Trends on Physics Education

New ICPE Chair Members

Turning the Challenge into Opportunities

A Physics Education Project in Africa

A Physics Problem Based on an Actual Experiment

Physics in Stamps

Physics Posters

Teaching and Learning Physics in a Cultural Context

Anamorphic Images - A Combination of Art, Physics and Mathematics

Physics Education Conferences

Physics Education Publications

Physics Websites

Turning the Challenge into Opportunities: The Mission of Physics Teachers for the Next Millennium
(Some Conclusions from the International Conference of Physics Teachers and Educators, Guilin, People’s Republic of China )

Leonard Jossem
Professor of Physics Emeritus, Department of Physics
Ohio State University

This conference has been concerned with "Turning the Challenge into Opportunities: the Historic Mission of the Physics Teacher for the Next Millennium".

The very rapid changes of knowledge and techniques in science and technology, and the changes they have caused and will continue to cause in our societies, define the challenge and the mission for us as teachers in the next millennium. It is the challenge of life-long learning and understanding for all.

This challenge has many parts.

For us as teachers, and as teachers of teachers, it is the challenge of personal professional development. The profession of teaching also needs, now more than ever, to become one of life-long development. It is the process of keeping up-to-date in developments in physics and related sciences, keeping up-to-date in the developments in physics education research, in developments in curriculum reform and instructional methods and technologies, and in examination, evaluation, and assessment theories and techniques – including self-assessment.

In meeting these challenges, it is very important for teachers to have strong support for their work. It is not realistic to believe that they can do it all without support. They need support from their colleagues at work, and support from school and university administrators, and at the national level.

Money is an important aspect of support in the form of better salaries and funds for travel to important educational conferences. But time is also a very important source of support: time to study and to discuss educational problems with colleagues, time to try educational experiments and to analyze the results, time to see where and how improvements might be made and to try the new ideas.

Teachers can help and support each other in local groups in which they discuss their problems and their research and analyze their results.

The existence of high-speed connections to the Internet and the World Wide Web make it possible to have discussions and share ideas with teachers in other parts of the country and even with physics teachers anywhere in the world. The Web also opens up a tremendous source of information, ideas and instructional materials to the individual physics teacher. One of the things that needs to be explored is how best to use this resource. Standards of quality for judging materials are very much needed and should be shared widely among physics teachers.

Another part of the challenge is the challenge of helping students – including prospective teachers – to learn and understand. It is the challenge of motivating them to see the value to themselves of becoming actively involved in the process of learning and of taking serious responsibility for their own learning.

The conference has provided us with various examples of some ways to motivate students, for example, involving them in the solution of "real-life" problems, and in the design of practical projects. Another part of the challenge is recognizing the diversity of students and their different styles of learning, and adapting teaching methods to suit the individual student. Here, also, help for the teacher can come from the results of physics education research, from discussions with colleagues and with the students themselves, and from the many resources available on the Web.

A third challenge is the challenge of the relations of teachers with the rest of society. In times of rapid change such as we have now, people often become uncomfortable and look for quick and easy solutions to what they see as their problems. There is no doubt that there are problems in the educational systems in every country, but in some cases the cure proposed is worse for the country than the disease.

In the long term interest of the health of their own countries, physics teachers need to help educate the people who determine the local, regional and national policies on education. This is especially true for science education. In many countries, the number of required hours for science education has recently been reduced. Where curricula are determined locally, individual teachers can do much to help the situation. Where there are national curricula that must be followed, the problem is much more difficult and requires much hard work on the part of the individuals and professional societies. It is often a very slow process to change people’s minds, but it is important to keep trying.

Here, again, the Internet can serve as an important way of keeping good contact and communication among groups of teachers.

Finally, the participants in the conference have some challenges for the organizers of future conferences.

Conference proceedings nowadays are usually prepared on a computer, so electronic files are available. Putting the proceedings on a website would make them available to a much larger group of teachers at little, if any, cost.

People from around the world are interested to learn about the educational systems of the countries they visit. Organizers may make provisions for optional visits to typical schools, colleges, and universities and institutes to see how physics education is done in the host country.

Also, in addition to the general sightseeing tours, organizers may take advantage of local places to visit on "science field trips" such as those in Workshop 3C in this conference.

Organizers may include sessions on the demographics of physics education in the host country and in other countries represented at the conference. What is happening in physics enrollments and required class hours in physics teaching at all levels is of interest to all teachers around the world.

Lectures and demonstration shows open to the public are important ways of connecting with the general public. In addition, organizers may wish to consider awarding prizes or other recognition to excellent students and to young teachers who are doing excellent wok and show promise of becoming leaders in physics education in the future.

Conference organizers may wish to provide "pre-" and "post-" questionnaires to the participants. What do they expect to gain from the conference? What parts of the conference were not valuable to them? This feedback from the participants can be of help in evaluating the success of the conference and of help in planning future conferences.

Statement from the `99 International Conference of Physics Teachers and Educators

Why Teach Science

There are many good reasons.

Science helps us find out about the structure of the universe, of how things work and our place in it. It brings us new knowledge, and helps us understand. Science is one of the major achievements of the minds and imagination of the people in the world. It helps to prepare future generations for their place in an increasingly complex and technological society.

What to Teach in Science In a rapidly changing world where new knowledge is being created at an astounding rate, learning has become a life-long process. Physics in particular is an important subject with which to teach students how to learn more about the world. We can not teach all of physics, but we can bring to all students a knowledge and understanding of parts of the subject, and show them how they are connected to the world.

How to Teach Science

We learn in different ways, and although each of us must learn for ourselves, we can all - teachers and students - also learn from each other. The important thing is that each of us take an active part in our own learning process, and experience the satisfaction that comes from knowing that we can learn and understand new things for ourselves.