Effectiveness_of_Ninth-Grade_physics

Effectiveness_of_Ninth-Grade_physics - Effectiveness of...

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Effectiveness of Ninth-Grade Physics in Maine: Conceptual Understanding T he Physics First movement—teaching a true physics course to ninth-grade students—is gaining popularity in high schools. There are several different rhetorical arguments for and against this movement, and it is quite controversial in phys- ics education. However, there is no actual evidence to assess the success, or failure, of this substantial shift in the science teaching sequence. We have under- taken a comparison study of physics classes taught in ninth- and 12th-grade classes in Maine. Comparisons of student understanding and gains with respect to mechanics concepts were made with excerpts from well-known multiple-choice surveys and individual student interviews. Results indicate that both popu- lations begin physics courses with similar content knowledge and specific difficulties, but when learn- ing concepts, ninth-graders are more sensitive to the instructional method used. Background Advocates of the Physics First movement 1-3 argue that the current sequence of high school science cours- es (biology-chemistry-physics) should be flipped in response to the dramatic changes in science curricula during the 20th century. 2 Because of the important discoveries in biology that have been made since Wat- son and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, modern biology courses emphasize molecular methods, genetics, and biochemistry; this is very dif- ferent from the general biology classes of the early 20th century that were a composite of botany, physiol- ogy, and zoology. Chemistry courses have undergone a similar evolution: modern chemistry emphasizes atomic structure, atomic energy levels, and even some quantum theory. Physics First advocates argue that a good understanding of modern biology requires a chemistry background, and a good understanding of modern chemistry requires a physics background. Beyond these changes that have occurred in the content of high school science courses, advocates for Physics First cite other potential advantages to teach- ing physics to ninth-graders rather than 12th-graders: 3 1. Improved learning of algebra due to concurrent ap- plications of the algebra to physics. 2. Increased enrollment in physics courses. Currently only about 35% of high school students take phys- ics, and approximately 25% of high school stu- dents take both chemistry and physics. 3. The ability for students to take advanced or elec- tive science courses during 12th grade without hav- ing to take two science courses simultaneously. 4. A better foundation of science content and skills (forces, motion, energy, experimental design, and data analysis) than Earth science. 5.
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Effectiveness_of_Ninth-Grade_physics - Effectiveness of...

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