Three ideas to teaching and learning of physics

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The three key ideas that are most relevant and useful to me are the use of feedback for effective learning, teaching science in consistent with the nature of scientific inquiry and lastly the use of collaborative work in science teaching and learning.

Importance of the three key ideas to the teaching and learning of physics

Feedback is a communication tool that allows others to provide information to learner about their progress in the achievement of learning objectives or the mastering of certain skills. It allows students to self-regulate their own learning. (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006) Feedback by both peers and teachers guides students towards the expected goals as it helps them to identify their strength and weakness. Students can then make use of their strength to overcome the areas of deficiency in their knowledge and skills. (Perera, Lee, Win, Perera, & Wijesuriya, 2008) An effective feedback provides students with the definition of good performance, useful information about their learning and opportunities to improve their current performance to reach the desired performance. In addition, feedback also facilitates development of self-assessment in learning, encourages positive motivational belief, self-esteem and communication with teachers and peers. Teachers could also make use of information obtained from feedback to help shape teaching. (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006)

Scientific inquiry reflects the nature of science. It is the way scientists came to understand the natural world and it should also be the way students learn science. It provides a deeper understanding of science concepts as it is anchored to inquiry experiences. Scientific inquiry involves the students asking questions about the world, developing scientific investigation to find answers to the questions, collecting evidence using appropriate instruments, constructing reasonable explanation based on the evidence and communicating their conclusion. (NSTA, 2004) Hence, student learns science by finding the answer themselves. Such hand-on learning approach is more effective than the traditional method of lecturing as students are actively engaged in the learning process. (Wetzel, 2009) In the process of learning through scientific inquiry, students also master skills such as ways to operate science tools and to think like a scientist. Additionally, the analytical and critical thinking skills which are an integral part of scientific inquiry process could also be used in every-day problem solving. (Wetzel, 2009) Students will understand that science is based on evidence and is unambiguous in nature. The evidence collected in the scientific inquiry process might also change their perception about the world and increase their scientific knowledge. (NSTA, 2004)

Collaborative learning is the process whereby learners of different performance level work together in groups for the purpose of achieving a common goal. In collaborative learning, students share the responsibility for learning. They are not only responsible for their own success but also the success of their group mates. (Panitz) Thus, students help each other and create a supportive environment that raise the performance level of each member. (Teaching Effectiveness Program, 2010) They inform each other the procedures and meanings, analyze data together, argue over findings, keep track of the task and provide feedback for each other. (American Association for the Advancement of Science) The active exchange of ideas within the group also provides every student with the opportunity to be involved in the process of learning. Students can exercise greater control over their learning and explore the various alternative solutions in a safe environment. This results in an improvement in their critical thinking skills and retention of information. Social interaction and oral communication skills could also be developed in the process of collaborative learning. Furthermore, with the aid of their group mates, students are also more likely to stay on task and complete assignments successfully. Hence, their self-esteem is greatly enhanced and they will view physics with a positive attitude. This will in turn lead to a cycle of higher performance and greater interest. Moreover, collaborative learning allows students to understand physics concepts from different points of view and clarify their understanding through debates and discussion. Lastly, collaborative learning reflects the way scientist and engineers work. (Srinivas)

Implications of the three key ideas

Previously, other than grading the student’s work, I seldom provide feedback to my students. Similarly, I seldom obtain feedback from my students with regard to my teaching. After knowing the importance of feedback in learning, I feel that it is important for me to provide more effective feedback to student immediately after each assessment and on a regular basis. Alternatively, I could also get students to do peer evaluation from time to time. Hence, students not only receive feedback from the teachers, they could also receive feedback from their peers. After receiving the feedback, it is also important for me to provide students with ample time to reflect on their learning and to make the necessary adjustment. Opportunity to make another attempt after the adjustment must also be provided to allow students to learn from the feedback. (American Association for the Advancement of Science) In addition, I would also actively seek feedback from students so as to improve my way of teaching physics.

The idea that teaching should be consistent with the nature of scientific inquiry has also changed my perspective of what makes a good physics teacher. Instead of being a provider of knowledge, I should be a facilitator who guides students to learn physics concepts through the use of scientific inquiry method. I would try to implement science inquiry-based programs that incorporate content knowledge. Moreover, I would try to make the classroom a positive learning environment by encouraging them to raise questions, render hypothesis and think of ways to justify the said hypothesis. Time and resources to conduct the investigation themselves and obtain evidence to support their hypothesis should also be given to students. So learning becomes student-centered as students learn to discover knowledge themselves through the scientific inquiry process.

Lastly, the effectiveness of collaborative learning provides me with new insights on ways to enhance students learning of physics. Instead of making students learn individually, I should include more group work to enhance peer tutoring in class. One such example would be the use of collaborative concept mapping after each topic. In addition, I should always allocate sufficient time for the students to interact in the group. When students are working in groups, I could also give more challenging physics projects to enhance the student’s understanding of certain physics concepts without fearing that it is too taxing or tough for the students. Moreover, I would vary the grouping of students for different projects based on their interest, skills level and content knowledge. This would ensure that every student have the appropriate amount of scaffolding required for the understanding of physics.