Voice and Choice in Physics

This past week I asked my students what they wanted to study next in our Advanced Physics class.  (Note:  this is not an AP class, since I’m just a physics teacher padawan.)

I listed the remaining chapters in the book (12-31) with their titles and sections.  I asked the students to rank each chapter in interest from 1-5.  Sample size is N=11, 3 females and 8 males.

I took all the ratings for each chapter and averaged.  I also averaged across the ratings for each section, so I could see if there was a pattern of interest across the sections.

Here are the results.


When you group the Chapter Ratings by Section, you see a trend that you might have suspected, namely that students want to study Modern Physics.  However, if you note the Standard Deviation for Modern Physics, it is definitely wider, in other words, some students do *not* want to study Modern Physics.


Either way, next week we are off to Chapter 20, Electricity.  I can’t wait to talk about analogs to F=ma that exist in electronics , i.e. V=IR.

I should also note here that some of my inspiration for this move was some reading I was doing in the “Physics First” community.  Let me put some references here that speak with particular persuasion in favor of teaching Physics to 9th graders.


High School Committee of the American Association of Physics Teachers [AAPT]. (2006). Physics First: An Informational Guide for Teachers, School Administrators, Parents, Scientists and the Public.  AAPT. Retrieved November 9, 2013 from http://www.aapt.org/upload/phys_first.pdf

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  • John Weisenfeld  On February 11, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Here’s a follow-up on 2/11/2014. It has been a long haul through 7 chapters of Electricity. Today I asked what students would like to study and in what order for the rest of the year.

    The response was overwhelming: (N=10, 2 Female, 8 Male)
    1. States of Matter
    2. Waves and Light
    3. Modern Physics
    [3 people put Modern Physics in #2 spot…, which is significant?]

    Per the above, I would have thought that we could have done Modern Physics first. But the lesson to be learned is that students need voice and choice *often*, because they can change their minds!

    So we will finish up Chapter 26 of Merrill Principles and Problems (1995) and then do Chapters 12-13 (States of Matter), Chapters 14-19 (Light and Waves) and then end up with Chapters 27-31 (Modern Physics).

    And that will be my first year of teaching Physics, yay!

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