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Re: [Phys-l] science education goals and strategies

Two comments come to mind:

1. About "spiraling": I agree that you have a better understanding the second, third, nth time you study something. I remember how little I understood during my first years TEACHING physics. To me, this also relates to the question discussed a while back in this list, whether it matters if a teacher is engaging/entertaining. The importance of that factor may not show up in end of year testing. But if a teacher communicates the excitement of learning physics, more students will want to continue their studies. I am frequently impressed and aided by the level of insight shown by the regulars on this list. But I don't think any of you attained this understanding in one year.

2. About "Physics First": I teach in a "academic" high school in New Jersey. My department met two years ago and agreed that there were many benefits of phys then chem then bio. But then we started to work out the logistics of the switch. Because of different certifications and abilities of teachers, it would be necessary to phase this in over a 6 - 7 year period. It was tremendously complicated but not undo-able. Then, a colleague asked: Before we commit to this, what evidence do we have that it works better than what we are doing now? It is NOT a small change, and once we start, it's just as hard to switch back. So we tabled it...

Now I see that the issues are related. The main reason in favor of the switch is that with Bio then Chem then Physics, the bio teachers have to introduce some basic chem and the chem teachers have to do a tiny bit of physics. Then, the physics teachers also end up explaining what some of the chem meant. It sounds inefficient, but isn't another example of spiraling?

Phil Keller