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Preparing teachers (preservice & inservice) to teach physics as a process of inquiry Documents

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Preparing teachers (preservice & inservice) to teach physics as a process of inquiry 

written by Lillian C. McDermott and Peter S. Shaffer

For more than 35 years the Physics Education Group has been engaged in the preparation and professional development of K-12 teachers of physics and physical science.  Our teacher education program includes special courses in physics for preservice teachers during the academic year and intensive (five or six-week) institutes for inservice teachers during the summer.  The courses and institutes provide an environment in which teachers learn (or relearn) physics in a way that is consistent with how they are expected to teach.  In addition, all participants in the program are encouraged to attend weekly, late-afternoon, academic-year continuation courses in which we help them apply in their classrooms what they have learned in our program.  We also assist the teachers in assessing the learning of their students.  The continuation courses have helped build a professional community, in which elementary, middle, and high school teachers encourage and help one another.  Our program also provides part of the environment in which we have been developing two sets of research-based and research-validated instructional materials.  Physics by Inquiry (Wiley, 1996) is a set of laboratory-centered and inquiry-oriented modules that help teachers develop the subject-matter background and reasoning skills needed to teach science by inquiry.  Because of the time constraint for the workshop, we will illustrate how we teach by questioning (rather than by telling) in the context of Tutorials in Introductory Physics (Prentice Hall, 2002), which is intended to supplement standard instruction in introductory calculus- and algebra-based courses.  A video, filmed during one of our NSF Summer Institutes, illustrates the kinds of questions that we ask in order to assess understanding.

*The research, curriculum development, and teacher education programs of the Physics Education Group have been supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

Last Modified March 20, 2009