Ninth Grade Physics: A Necessity for High School Science Programs, JR Wilt

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Content: 342
Journal of Curriculum and Supervision
Summer 2005, Vol. 20, No. 4, 342-362
NINTH GRADE PHYSICS: A NECESSITY FOR HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE PROGRAMS John R. WILT, Retired, Indian Land High School, Fort Mill, South Carolina
ABSTRACT: The traditional order in which science courses are taught in U.S. high schools is biology, chemistry, physics. The physics course usually is regarded as very difficult because it requires both high-level mathematical skills and high-level thinking skills; it is taught in the final year of high school to provide time for students to develop the necessary background in advanced mathematics and higherorder thinking skills. Research over the last 10 years indicates that an understanding of physics does not require, in fact, high-level mathematical skills and that some difficulties with physics are the result of students' misconceptions acquired at some earlier time. When these difficulties are addressed properly, it is possible to teach physics successfully to high school freshmen, providing them with considerable benefit for later science courses, particularly chemistry and biology. T he traditional order in which science courses are taught in U,S, high schools is biology, then chemistry, then physics (BCP). Biology usually is regarded as the study of living or once-living organisms, chemistry as the study of matter, and physics as the study of concepts such as force, energy, and motion required for the understanding of all science. The primary contemporary rationale for this sequence of teaching science courses is that the mathematical and thinking skills required in physics are believed to be at a higher level than those required for chemistry and biology. According to this rationale, teaching physics in the senior year provides time for students to develop the required mathematical and higher-order thinking skills. As noted by Sheppard and Robbins, the BCP order and the rationale for it were set in 1893 by the Physical Science Subcommittee of the Committee of Ten, established by the National Education Association to recommend a course of study for U.S. high schools,' The subcommittee reported that the biology-chemistry-physics order 'Keith Sheppard and Dennis Robbins, "Lessons from the Committee of Ten," The Physics Teacher 40 (2002): 426,
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was not logical because physics was the most fundamental science, but that its members believed that the need for certain mathematical skills and thinking skills in physics outweighed the more fundamental nature of physics. Interestingly enough, as Sheppard and Robbins also point out, the Committee of Ten did not follow the recommendations of its Subcommittee on Physical Sciences,^ Rather, submitting that physics was the more fundamental science, it recommended that physics be taught first.^ However, the recommendations of the Subcommittee on Physical Sciences to teach biology, chemistry, and physics in that order have generally been followed in the United States, although not in the rest of the world. It is both interesting and timely to examine changes over the last century in the sciences themselves, in the way that science is regarded in society, and in the manner in which science is taught. In 1893 many scholars and teachers regarded physics as a field that was complete, Newton's laws and Maxwell's equations had adequately explained mechanics and electricity and magnetism, Gibbs had published his monumental work on thermodynamics, and that subfield was regarded as well understood. The Periodic Table had been developed, helping to organize all chemistry. Pasteur had learned to conquer disease, and Darwin had explained evolution. What more could be understood about science except to fill in the details? Certainly, from the viewpoint of 1893, science could be taught as a single course in high school, and the choice of which one to teach was not serious; blanks could be filled in during the college years for those students who needed a more complete picture. The view of science expressed in 1893 clearly was incorrect. The basic sciences of biology, chemistry, and physics have undergone revolutionary changes in understanding and enormous growth during the last century, and science occupies a much more significant role in society at the beginning of the 21st century than it did at the end of the 19th century. Symbolic of this change is that the amount of high school science required for graduation from high school in a college preparatory program has increased from 1 unit (out of a total of 16 units of study and chosen from physics, chemistry, or biology) in 1893'' to 3 or sometimes 4 units (out of perhaps 20 to 24 units, including 2 chosen from physics, chemistry, and biology plus one ad-
'National Education Association, Report of the Committee on Secondary School Studies (Washington, DC: Bureau of Education, 1893), "Ibid,
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Ninth Grade Physics: A Necessity for High School Science Programs
ditional science course) in 2004,^ Thus, although the total number of courses to be taken in high school has increased by 25 to 50 percent (from 16 Carnegie units to 20 to 24 Carnegie units) over the last century, the number of science courses has tripled or quadrupled. The true situation is more easily understood when the nature of the science courses themselves is considered. The increase in scientific knowledge during the last century has led to a corresponding increase in the amount of material included in basic high school science courses. The course content taught in 1893 is still taught today, but that content accounts for perhaps 13 percent of the modem courses. The total amount of science material to be taught and leamed in high school has expanded by a factor of perhaps 20 (seven times as much material in each course multiplied by three courses rather than one), while the time allocated for this teaching and learning has perhaps doubled from one-sixteenth of four high school years in 1893 to oneeighth today. Indeed, a reasonable argument can be advanced that with the increase in the number and performance level of high school sports and extracurricular activities over the last century, the time available for academic pursuits in high school is much less than it was a century ago. If schools are to successfully meet the challenge of teaching and learning perhaps 20 times as much material in something less than twice as much time, they must develop a more deliberate curriculum. In terms of the development of the branches of sciences across the last century and, especially, over the last 50 years, biology has developed in a way that increasingly uses concepts from both chemistry and physics. Also, chemistry increasingly uses concepts normally taught in physics. Physics, on the other hand, requires no concepts at all from either chemistry or biology. Figure 1 illustrates this situation. As the figure suggests, in terms of curriculum efficiency, physics should be taught first, then chemistry, and then biology, because the chemistry and biology courses could draw on the concepts 'As examples. New York State currently requires 22 Carnegie units, including 1 unit of life science and 2 units of physical science (http://www.emsc.nysed,gov/ partl00/pages/1005a.html). North Carolina requires 20 Carnegie units, including 3 units of science for a college preparatory diploma plus any local requirements (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/student_promotion/gradreq.html). South Carolina requires 24 Carnegie units, including 1 unit of physical science (required for high school freshmen but not counted as a lab science for college admission by the Commission on Higher Education) plus 3 units of laboratory science (http://sde,state. sc.us). The College Board is currently recommending a minimum of 3 Carnegie units of science, including biology and chemistry or physics and an advanced science (http://www.collegeboard,com/article/0,3868,2-7-0-33,00,html).
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Figure 1. Overlap of Concepts in High School Physics, Chemistry, and Biology Courses
Physics Concepts Used in Chemistry
Chemistry Concepts Used in Biology
Atomic physics/Quantum Mechanics Kinetic and potential energy Force Electrostatic interaction Pressure Heat Waves/light
Chemical equations Stoichiometry Thermodynamics Kinetics Catalysis Osmosis Chemical bonding
already taught in the previously taken physics and chemistry courses. This article analyzes the pedagogical soundness of first teaching physics, then chemistry, and then biology, with particular attention to the national science standards^ and the curriculum standards adopted for these subjects by various states. TRADITIONAL CONCERNS ABOUT TEACHING PHYSICS Before suggesting which grade level is appropriate for teaching physics, it is important to address the traditional concerns concerning the level of mathematics and the level of thinking required to understand physics. Positioning physics at the beginning of the science curriculum would be pointless if the required mathematics could not be taught until the end of the mathematics curriculum. If thinking skills at the highest levels of Bloom's Taxonomy are required to comprehend physics and students cannot acquire those skills until age 17 or later, perhaps physics is best regarded as a course suited only for the brightest students at the highest level of high school. An analysis of these concerns permits an answer to the question "At what grade level in the high school science curriculum is physics best taught?" The Mathematics Required to Understand High School Physics The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has advanced standards for the teaching of mathematics that are parallel to the national science standards. The NCTM mathematics standards are often used by states in the standard-setting process in much the
^National Committee on science education Standards, National Research Council, National Science Education Standards (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1996), Available; http://www,nap.edu/catalog/4962.html.
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Ninth Grade Physics: A Necessityfor High School Science Programs
same way that the national science standards are used. Because state standards for science and mathematics courses are virtually all derived from the national science standards and the NCTM standards, the standards established by various states are far more similar than different. Differences between state standards tend to be in the level of understanding to be achieved by students rather than in the nature of the topics taught. States implement and enforce educational standards primarily through the use of standardized tests with standardized grading. States opting for relatively low standards use tests that ask questions and permit answers at a relatively low level of understanding, such as definitions. States opting for high standards usually use tests that ask questions that require a high level of understanding, perhaps solving a new problem or drawing a conclusion in a new context using concepts that should have been taught. In each case the state regards the topic as learned if students successfully answer the relevant question on the examination, although the level of understanding required of students in the two cases differs substantially. The issue of whether or not students have actually leamed the substantive content covered in the state standards and what level of understanding they have achieved is of substantial concem in education generally and in science education in particular. Nevertheless, this topic merits additional inquiry. States seem to agree on the grade level at which various concepts should be taught, and, for the moment, a necessary assumption is that the mathematical and physical concepts to be discussed have been assigned at appropriate grade (age) levels by the national science standards and the NCTM standards. The issue here is to establish the grade level at which the various mathematical concepts are supposed to be taught and to verify that the mathematical concepts have been included in the mathematics curriculum before they are required for use in physics. Comparing the New York State core curricula in mathematics and physics provides a reasonable and convenient way to make this determination. The mathematical concepts required in the study of New York State Regents Physics and Chemistry are presented in Figure 2. For the purposes of the figure, physics has been divided into Conceptual Physics and Regents Physics (this division will be convenient later in this article). It is worth noting that the mathematical concepts included in this figure represent my own opinion as an experienced chemistry and physics teacher. Likely, few physics teachers would delete items from this list; however, other physics teachers reasonably might add to it. Understanding that the information in Figure 2 represents the opinion of a successful physics teacher, virtually all of the mathe-
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Figure 2. Mathematical Concepts Required in New York State Regents Physics and Chemistry
Conceptual Physics
Regents Physics
Chemistry
Arithmetic (5, 6)* Proportions (5, 6) Scientific notation (5, 6) Variables (5, 6) Constants (5, 6) Simple equations in one unknown (5, 6) Powers and roots (7, 8) Order of operations (5, 6) Graphing (5, 6) Functions (5, 6) Units (7, 8)
Conceptual physics plus · Basic trig functions and inverses (7, 8) · Pythagorean theorem (5, 6) · Vectors (10 or 11)
Regents physics plus · Linear equations 2 unknowns · Quadratic equations (7, 8) · Quadratic formula · Logarithms (10 or 11) · Antilogarithms
·Numbers in parentheses indicate the grade level at which the topic is taught in the New York State mathematics core curriculum.
matical concepts required for the study of physics are taught in the 5th and 6th grade. Indeed, only "powers and roots," "units," and "basic trigonometric functions" are taught in the 7th and 8th grade, and "vectors" appears in the second mathematics course in high school, normally taught in grades 10 or 11, The mathematical concept of vectors is very useful in physics but is covered at the end of the second high school mathematics course and often is not taught at all. Thus, physics teachers normally teach vectors at the beginning of the physics course, and they otherwise use only mathematical concepts taught in or before 8th grade. Students' perceived lack of mathematical concepts should not be a barrier to teaching physics in the 9th or even the 8th grade, because virtually all mathematical concepts should have been taught well before then, and the remaining mathematical concepts easily may be taught at the beginning of the physics course. As Figure 2 indicates, chemistry actually uses more advanced mathematical concepts than physics. Again, that a topic is present in a curriculum does not mean that it has been taught or that students have learned it. Indeed, high school and college teachers of both physics and chemistry routinely complain that students are unable to apply mathematical concepts taught in mathematics classes to physics and chemistry problems. Many physics and chemistry teachers (including myselO spend something like 10 to 15 percent of the science course time reteaching concepts that were taught and successfully assessed in previous or concurrent mathematics courses. Further, both high school and college science teachers observe that students will not admit to having learned anything in any previous course--including previous sci-
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Ninth Grade Physics: A Necessity for High School Science Programs
ence courses--unless it is reviewed and explained again in the current course. This problem may be a legitimate transference problem or simply a pervasive strategy by students to reduce their workload. Conceptual Requirements in Physics Given that no pedagogical reason (specifically, lack of mathematical understanding) exists not to teach physics as a first high school science course, an appropriate consideration is the possibility that the conceptual requirements of physics are beyond the abilities of 8th and 9th grade students. Paul Hewitt at the City College of San Francisco was one of the first physics teachers to realize that extensive mathematics is not a necessary prerequisite to the teaching of physics concepts. Currently in its ninth edition, his Conceptual Physics was first published in 1971.^ This text is used in both high school and college physics courses and does not assume that students need extensive prerequisite mathematical development. In continuous publication for more than 30 years, it must be regarded as one of the most successful physics books ever written. A second conceptual approach developed specifically for high schools is Active Physics, developed by Dr. Arthur Eisenkraft of the Fox Hill High School in Bedford (Westchester County), New York, in conjunction with the American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Institute of Physics.^ The Active Physics materials were developed specifically for students at the 9th or 10th grade levels. A list of the concepts required for the New York State Regents Physics course is presented in Figure 3. Many of the same concepts are presented in the New York State Grade 5-8 and Grade 1-4 curricula, and, for comparative purposes, these concepts have been included in the figure. The concepts presented in both Hewitt's Conceptual Physics and the Active Physics programs also have been included for comparison. A first impression from the information in Figure 3 may be that a surprisingly large number of the Regents Physics topics are included in the elementary and middle school science curricula. A second impression is how well the Hewitt Conceptual Physics course covers the NYS middle school curriculum in physics (or, conversely, how much of the Hewitt course is contained in the NYS middle 'Paul C. Hewitt, Conceptual Physics, 9th ed. (Needham, MA: Benjamin Cummings, 2002), for college use; Paul C. Hewitt, Conceptual Physics: Tbe High School Program (Needham, MA: Prentice Hall, 2002), for high school use. ^Arthur Eisenkraft, Active Physics (Armonk, NY: It's About Time, Inc., 2000). Available: http://www. its-about-time.com/htmls/ap.html.
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Figure 3. Comparison of Physics Curricula
New York State Regents
Conceptual
Core Curriculum Topics NYS 5-8 NYS 1-4
Physics
Active Physics
Mathematics Vectors Graphs
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Mechanics
Position Velocity
Yes
Yes
Yes
Speed
Yes
Acceleration
Yes
Newton's first law
Yes
Force
Yes
Yes
Newton's second law
Yes
Free body diagrams
Newton's third law
Yes
Equilibrium
Friction
Yes
Yes
Projectiles
Yes
Momentum
Impulse-momentum theorem
Conservation of momentum
Energy
Yes
Power
Springs
Pendulum Gravity
Yes
Yes
Rotational motion
Potential energy
Yes
kinetic energy
Yes
Conservation of energy
Yes
Conversion of energy
Yes
Work-energy theorem
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Electricity and Magnetism
Charge
Yes
Electrostatic force
Yes
Current
Yes
Voltage
Yes
Resistance
Resistance of wires
Ohm's law
Electric field
Yes
Electrical energy
Yes
Electrical power
Magnetism
Yes
Yes
Magnetic field
Yes
Series circuits
Parallel circuits
Voltmeters
Ammeters
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
(continued)
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Ninth Grade Physics: A Necessity for High School Science Programs
Figure 3. Comparison of Physics Curricula (continued)
New York State Regents
Conceptual Active
Core Curriculum Topics NYS 5-8 NYS 1-4 Physics Physics
Waves
Longitudinal
Transverse
Electromagnetic
Yes
Wavelength
Period
Frequency
Speed
Amplitude
Phase
Sound
Yes
Resonance
Interference
Reflection
Index of refraction
Refraction
Yes
Diffraction
Standing waves
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Atomic Physics Energy level diagram Line spectra Photons Energy is equivalent to mass Wave particle duality Charge is quantized
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Standard Model Subnuclear particles, quarks Antiquarks Leptons Anti-leptons
school curriculum). Clearly, those who framed the middle school science standards and curricula intended that physics concepts be taught at that level and believed that Middle School Students are capable of learning these concepts. Also clear is that middle school students do not learn the concepts sufficiently, because Hewitt still teaches the same concepts at the college level. At this point one could reasonably argue that the concepts are not learned in middle school because the students are not yet cognitively ready for them. A second reasonable argument, however, is that middle school students already may have acquired incorrect or insufficient understandings of the physics concepts, which they retain as they grow older, and that the teaching efforts at the middle school, high school, and beginning college levels simply are inadequate to correct the sit-
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uation. Approaches to teaching have been developed, however, that can correct these misconceptions. To the extent that these approaches are successful with 9th graders, no reliable reason exists to believe that the concepts are beyond those students' reach. DIFFICULTIES WITH CURRENT teaching approaches The mathematics and conceptual perspectives provide no sufficient reason not to offer physics as a first science course in the 8th or 9th grade. However, a reasonable question arises about the efficacy of current approaches to the teaching of physics to K-12 students generally (lecture combined with laboratory), given that students often have considerable difficulty understanding elementary college physics.^ In work that can only be described as visionary, L. P. Benezet, who in the late 1930s was superintendent of schools in Manchester, New Hampshire, described a successful hands-on approach to teaching mathematics.^° Benezet clearly showed that Rote Memorization techniques commonly used to teach elementary school mathematics were counterproductive. He emphasized that students had no need for such skills (such as learning multiplication tables), other than possibly making change, in their life outside of school until the 7th grade, and thus no need justified their acquisition of this knowledge before that time. He abolished all such rote memorization from mathematics teaching in the Manchester schools until the beginning of the 7th grade. Rather, the district's teachers concentrated on the development of mathematical logic in conjunction with such skills as keeping and telling time and dates. Telling time requires, of course, counting modulo 60, 12, and 24, and dates require counting modulo 30, 31, and 28. Students thereby acquired the skill of counting in different modulus number systems without being taught to do so explicitly. When the students began 7th grade and the various number system topics were addressed explicitly, students found that they al- 'Ibrahim Halloun and David Hestenes, "The Initial Knowledge State of College Physics Students," American Joumal of Physics 53 (1985): 1043-1055; Richard R. Hake, "Promoting Student Crossover to the Newtonian World," American Journal of Physics 55 (1987): 878; Richard R. Hake, "Socratic Pedagogy in the Introductory Physics Lab," The Physics Teacher 30 (1992): 546; Richard R. Hake, "Survey of Test Data for introductory mechanics Courses," AAPTAnnouncer 24 (1994): 55. '°L. P. Benezet, "The Teaching of Arithmetic I: The Story of an Experiment," Joumal of the National Education Association 24 (1935): 241-244; L. P. Benezet, "The Teaching of Arithmetic II: The Story of an ^xpenmerA," Joumal of the National Education Association 24 (1935): 301-303; L. P. Benezet, "The Teaching of Arithmetic III: The Story of an ^xpenment" Joumal of the National Education Association 25 (1936): 7-8.
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ready knew the concepts and could demonstrate competence after only a couple of months. A comparison of the performance of students taught using the new technique versus students taught using the traditional approach clearly demonstrated that the traditional students had few problem-solving skills, whereas those taught using the new technique excelled at problem solving and performed at an equivalent level in the memorized material, such as multiplication tables, when compared with the traditionally taught students. This visionary work has lain dormant for nearly 70 years. In the early 1970s, Arnold Arons at the University of Washington showed that physics concepts were not effectively taught using conventional lecture techniques, but could be taught using what are now called interactive techniques.^^ Interactive techniques require that the student actively engage the topic being taught. Traditional (passive) techniques require the student to watch and listen and to do assigned problems. As an example, trajectories may be taught passively by drawing diagrams on the blackboard, doing sample calculations, and having the students do problems of various types. Taught actively, students are presented with a device capable of launching a projectile and asked to calculate the impact point of the projectile and then compare their calculation with the measured impact point. This idea can be expanded further into what might be called an interactive-engagement technique, in which students could be asked to design a device capable of launching a projectile to a predetermined target, perhaps in competition with other students. Each case requires learning how to calculate trajectories, but in the passive techniques the calculation concludes the lesson. In the interactive and interactive-engagement techniques, calculation is a necessary means to another end. Interactive or interactive-engagement techniques are focused on students' learning of the material in order to achieve success. Relevant activities must be carefully designed to ensure that the lessons to be learned are actually the lessons that are taught. About 30 years ago David Hestenes at the University of Arizona began investigating why College Students in beginning engineering classes had so much difficulty with introductory physics, especially with Newtonian mechanics, the traditional starting point for a rigorous education in physics. Hestenes found that the primary cause was "A. B. Arons, "Toward Wider Public Understanding of Science," American Joumal of Physics 41 (1972): 769-782; A, B. Arons, " 'Toward Wider Public Understanding of Science' Addendum," American Joumal of Physics A2 (1974): 157-158; A. B. Arons, "The Various Language," in Teacher's Handbook (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977); A. B. Arons, A Guide to Introductory Physics Teaching (Hew York: Wiley, 1990).
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not students' difficulty with mathematics, but rather that the physics concepts themselves countered the students' preconceived ideas about how the world works. However the students developed their intuition, by the time they got to college, physics was counterintuitive.^^ Apparently K-12 teaching either had fostered the students' incorrect intuition or had failed to overcome an incorrectly developed intuition. Hestenes proposed that a primary measure of success for an introductory college-level physics course should be the extent to which students developed a correct understanding (intuition) of the way that the world works in terms of Newtonian mechanics. Hestenes, with colleagues Malcolm Wells and Gregg Swackhamer, developed and standardized (validated) a procedure to measure the extent to which the effort to revamp student intuition had succeeded in a physics course; they called the measure the Force Concept Inventory.^^ Hestenes and another colleague developed a method of systematically evaluating the effectiveness of the teaching in a physics course using the techniques of the Force Concept Inventory. ^^ The Force Concept Inventory is a short multiple-choice test to determine whether or not students correctly understand the fundamental concepts of Newtonian mechanics. Common misconceptions are provided as distracters along with correct answers to the situations presented by the questions. Thousands of physics students at all levels have taken this test. Results indicate that nearly all students hold their misconceptions through high school and beginning college physics programs.^5 The source of these misconceptions and the reason that they are so difficult to correct is one of the great puzzles in Physics Education Research (PER). Richard Hake, recently retired from the University of Indiana, also pointed out students' difficulty with physics concepts'^ and pi- Halloun and David Hestenes, "Common Sense Concepts About Motion," American Joumal of Physics 53 (1985): 1056-1065. ''David Hestenes, Malcolm Wells, and Gregg Swackhamer, "Force Concept Inventory," The Physics Teacher 30 (1992): 141-151; David Hestenes and Malcolm Wells, "A Mechanics baseline test," The Physics Teacher 50 (1992): 159-166; David Hestenes, Malcolm Wells, and Gregg Swackhamer, "A Modeling Method for High School Physics Instruction," American Joumal of Physics 63 (1995): 606-619. '''David Hestenes and Ibrahim Halloun, "Interpreting the Force Concept Inventory," The Physics Teacher 5i (1995): 502, 504-506. '^Ibrahim Halloun and David Hestenes, "The Initial Knowledge State of College Physics Students," American Joumal oj" Physics 53 (1985): 1043-1055; David Hestenes and Ibrahim Halloun, "Interpreting the Force Concept Inventory," The Physics Teacher 33 (1995): 502, 504-506. '^Richard R. Hake, "Interactive-Engagement vs. Traditional Methods: A Six Thousand Student Survey of Mechanics Test Data for Introductory Physics Courses," American Joumal of Physics 66 (1998): 64-74.
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oneered interactive-engagement education methods in physics education, introducing the so-called Socratic Dialog Inducing Labs.^^ In the Socratic Dialog Inducing framework, students are asked to perform a simple experiment in which an apparatus behaves in a way conflicting with common misconceptions about mechanics. The student then formulates a question that will help explain the conflict. The student's question is answered with another question (Socratic dialog) or a suggestion for a further experiment with the apparatus. This process is repeated until the student correctly understands the problem and its solution. Hake also provided an extensive justification for the results obtained using the modeling and interactive-engagement methods in both high school and college. Hake, using the Force Concept Inventory as a measure of success, concluded that the modeling and interactive-engagement methods were both effective in overcoming the conceptual difficulties caused by students' incorrect worldview. He also found that many students can pass both high school and introductory college physics courses with their incorrect woridviews intact. ^^ The work of Hestenes and his students has not been accepted without criticism. Huffman and Heller did not question the utility of the Force Concept Inventory as a qualitative tool for pointing out a serious difficulty with physics instruction, but they did not find it useful as a quantitative tool for diagnostic testing or as a measure of the success of a physics course.^^ Hestenes, Wells, and Swackhamer proposed a modeling method for high school physics instruction as another hands-on method of teaching physics that was effective in overcoming the conceptual difficulties uncovered by the Force Concept Inventory. ^° Gregg Swackhamer, one of the researchers, was at the time a high school physics teacher at Glenbrook North High School in Illinois. This program has undergone continual development, primarily at the University of Arizona, and is recognized today as one of the premier physics educa- '^Richard R Hake, "Socratic Pedagogy in the Introductory Physics Lab," The Physics Teacher 50 (1992): 546. ^^Richard R. Hake, "Interactive-Engagement vs. Traditional Methods: A Six Thousand Student Survey of Mechanics Test Data for Introductory Physics Courses," American Joumal of Physics 66 (1998): 64-74. A more extensive list of references is available at http://media4.physics.indiana.edu/~sdi/. ''Douglas Huffman and Patricia Heller, "What Does the Force Concept Inventory Actually Measure?" The Physics Teacher 55 (1995): 138-143. ^°David Hestenes, Malcolm Wells, and Gregg Swackhamer, "A Modeling Method for High School Physics Instruction," AmericanJoumal ofPhysics 65 (1995): 606-619.
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tion programs in the world. Extensive training opportunities in modeling techniques are available for high school teachers, along with extensive support.^^ Given that the Force Concept Inventory has been used effectively for 10 years, and the modeling and interactive-engagement methods have been used for almost as long, incorrect woridviews must be understood as a major source of the difficulty many K-12 students experience in physics. Also clear is that traditional teaching techniques do not correct these incorrect woridviews and that nontraditional, interactive teaching techniques can correct these incorrect woridviews. Thus there is no substantive reason not to teach physics as early as the 9th or perhaps even the 8th grade because of students' lack of mathematics skills or inability to comprehend the subject matter. A difficulty has been uncovered, however, concerning the incorrect worldview held by many students despite their successful performance in the high school physics course. Teaching must yield a correct physical intuition, and that teaching can be done by using interactive-engagement or modeling teaching methods. In addition, teachers must find the source of the incorrect worldview and modify their teaching so that it fosters a correct w^orldview instead. CURRENT WORK ON PHYSICS EIRST An active movement in physics teaching called "Physics Eirst" advocates teaching physics to high school freshmen using interactive techniques. Physics Eirst is championed by, among others, Leon Lederman.^^ Approximately 100 schools, many of them private, are believed to be using the Physics Eirst approach. Physics teachers at eight of these schools were contacted informally for comment about this program. All reported success with the program both in increased enrollment in science courses by students in grades 10 through 12 and better preparation of students subsequently enrolled in chemistry and biology courses. None of these teachers reported any difficulty with the 9th graders' lack of mathematics skills; some, however, reported "growing pains" associated with introducing the program because the entire school needed to convert to Physics Eirst in order to avoid scheduling problems. None of these teachers was ^'Further information is available at http://modeling.asu.edu/modeling-HS.html. ^\. M. Lederman, "A Science Way of Thinking," Education Week 16 (June 1999); available online at http://www.edweek.org/ew/1999/401eder.hl8; L. Lederman, "Physics First," APS Forum on Education Newsletter (Spring 2001); L. Lederman, "Revolution in Science Education: Put Physics First," Physics Today 54 (2001): 11-12; available online at .
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Ninth Grade Physics: A Necessity for High School Science Pmgrams
willing to return to the previous system. All of these schools used either Hewitt's Conceptual Physics or the Active Physics series of texts. Still, a third approach is available: Comprehensive Conceptual Curriculum in Physics (C^P), developed by Richard Olenick of the Physics Department at the University of Dallas.^' PHYSICS IN GRADES K-8 As noted, a major difficulty with high school physics education is an incorrect worldview held by high school students and beginning college students. That incorrect worldview is either propagated or generated in the K-8 curriculum; thus that program merits attention. Figure 4 displays the relationships among the New York State Core Curriculum for Physics, the New York State Core Curriculum for Science Grades 5-8, and the middle school science curriculum recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.^'' As Figure 4 indicates, the curriculum recommended by the National Academy of Sciences is substantially more complete than that adopted by New York State for use in middle school and also includes a number of topics not included in the New York State Regents Physics (high school) curriculum. As a point of information, the physics topics recommended by the National Academy of Sciences for inclusion in the science curriculum in grades 1 through 6 are included as Figure 5P The National Academy of Sciences has supported extensive work in the teaching of science in kindergarten through 8th grade. Ramon Lopez and Ted Schultz in their review of this research concluded that the best approach to science education in the elementary school was the use of kits that are provided to elementary school teachers.^^ The difficulty addressed by Lopez and Schultz (and the National Academy of Sciences, which supported the development of the kits) is that elementary school teachers traditionally are not as interested in or as knowledgeable about science as they ^'http://phys.udallas.edu/. Detailed material regarding this approach is available only to schools willing to conduct or send teachers to a 45-to-60-hour training workshop. This approach is not discussed here because no one contacted had used it, and information concerning the program is difficult to obtain. ^''National Academy of Sciences, Resourcesfor Teaching Middle School Science (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998). Available: http://bob.nap.edu/ html/rtmss/. ^'National Academy of Sciences, Resources for Teaching Elementary School Science (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1996). Available: http://bob. nap.edu/books/0309052939/html/. ^^Ramon E. Lopez and Ted Schultz, "Two Revolutions in K-8 Science Education," Physics Today 54 (2001); 44.
fohn R. Wilt
357
Figure 4. Middle School Physics Curricula
New York State Core Curriculum for Physics
NY State Core Curriculum for Science, Grades 5-8
National Academy of Sciences Middle School Curriculum"
Mathematics
Vectors
1.75
Graphs
1.28
Mechanics
Position
Yes
Velocity
Yes
Speed
Yes
Acceleration
Yes
Newton's first law
Yes
Force
Yes
Newton's second law
Yes
Free body diagrams
Newton's third law
Yes
Equilibrium
Friction
Yes
Projectiles
Yes
Momentum
Impulse-momentum theorem
Conservation of momentum
Energy
Yes
Power
Springs
Pendulum
Gravity
Yes
Rotational motion
Potential energy
Yes
Kinetic energy
Yes
Conservation of energy
Yes
Conversion of energy
Yes
Work-energy theorem
Yes
1.14 1.14 1.14 1.14 1.14 1.14, 1.29 1.14 1.14 1.3 1.30 1.34 1.3 1.14 1.80 1.14 1.109 1.14 1.14 1.14 1.46 1.14
Electricity and M^netism
Charge
Yes
Electrostatic force
Yes
Current
Yes
Voltage
Yes
Resistance
Resistance of wires
Ohm's law
Electric field
Yes
Electrical energy
Yes
Electrical power
Magnetism
Yes
Magnetic field
Yes
Series circuits
Parallel circuits
Voltmeters
Ammeters
1.9 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.25 1.25 1.25 (continued)
358
Ninth Grade Physics: A Necessity for High School Science Programs
Figure 4. Middle School Physics Curricula (continued)
New York State Core Curriculum for Physics
NY State Core Curriculum for Science, Grades 5-8
National Academy of Sciences Middle School Curriculum*
Waves
Longitudinal
Transverse
Electromagnetic
Yes
1.15
Wavelength
Period
Frequency
Speed
Amplitude
Phase
Sound
Yes
1.15
Resonance
1.15
Interference
Reflection
1.15
Index of refraction
Refraction
Yes
1.15
Diffraction
Standing waves
Atomic Physics Energy level diagram Line spectra Photons Energy is equivalent to mass Wave particle duality Charge is quantized
Standard Model Subnuclear particles, quarks Antiquarks Leptons Anti-leptons
Electromagnetism Electromagnetic induction Heat Archimedes' principle Bernoulli's principle Hearing Light Optics Vision Surface tension Aerodynamics Pressure Capacitance Polarization Diodes Transistors ·Numbers are the assignment numbers at which the topic is treated in the NAS curriculum. Words in this column are topics included in the NAS curriculum but not included in the New York State Regents Physics curriculum.
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Figure 5. Physics Concepts Taught in Grades 1-6 (National Academy of Sciences)
Physics Concept
Grade
NAS Module
Motion Weight Recoil, motion Electrical circuits Electrical circuits energy transfer Levers and pulleys Levers and pulleys Electricity and magnetism Electricity and magnetism Sound Position, motion, force (push or pull) Sound Sound
1,2
3.1 Balance and Motion
2
3.2 Balance and Weighing
K, 1 3 3 Balls and Ramps
4, 5 3.6 Circuits and Pathways
4
3.7 Electric Circuits
5
3.8 Energy Sources
5, 6 3.12 Levers and Pulleys
2, 3 3.13 Lifting Heavy Things
3, 4 3.15 Magnetism and Electricity
6
3.16 Magnets and Motors
3, 4 3.21 Physics of Sound
4
3.22 Relative Position and Motion
2, 3 3.25 Sound
3
3.26 Sounds
Supplemental Light Electrical circuits Electricity and magnetism Energy transfer Length, volume Lenses and mirrors Viscosity, cohesion Diffusion Motion Simple machines Sound Force (directional)
5, 6 3, 4, 5 4, 5, 6 2 1, 2, 3 5, 6 3, 4, 5 1, 2, 3 4 5, 6+ 2, 3, 4 5, 6+
3.33 Color and Light 3.35 Electrical Circuits 3.36 Electromagnetism 3.37 Energy--How you use different forms of energy 3.40 Length and Capacity 3.41 Lenses and Mirrors 3.43 Looking at Liquids 3.42 Liquid Explorations 3.44 Motion: How Moving Objects Interact 3.47 Simple Machines 3.50 Sound 3.51 STAR Flight Lab
are in more traditional elementary school teaching areas such as reading. The science kits come ready to use, with complete directions and sufficient supplies for students to execute the unit. As Lopez and Schultz point out, however, if the kits are used, some provision must be made to maintain them--replace the consumables and any equipment that was lost, and repair or replace whatever was broken. Someone knowledgeable in science must maintain the kits. An expectation that every elementary school teacher perform this function, which is both time consuming and tedious and requires a level of science expertise not every elementary school teacher may have, simply is untenable and impractical. Some school districts have addressed this situation by establishing a central kit maintenance facility or by contracting for kit maintenance with an
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Ninth Grade Physics: A Necessity for High School Science Programs
outside organization. This approach has been in use for only a few years; no research has been published as to how well it works. Another approach that has much face value is the co-teaching of physics and mathematics. In this approach the physics and mathematics courses are combined into one course with enough time scheduled to teach both. Students receive two grades and two credits. Colleges have implemented this approach for students needing remedial work using introductory chemistry and college algebra;^^ the approach has resulted in the publication of a textbook that seems appropriate for use in high school.^^ A benefit of this approach to the mathematics program is that students learn math concepts they need immediately and that retention of the mathematics concepts is likely improved. This prospect is consistent with the work of Benezet nearly 70 years ago.^^ A benefit to the science program is that the seeming transference problem is eliminated or at least reduced. The course as a whole benefits from some consolidation between the curricula primarily because the extended time available permits a much more reflective approach to the engagement with subject matter from both courses. The general approach of combining chemistry and math instruction is also being pursued via Project Numina at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, using an interactive approach with handheld computers.^" Although this work is proceeding at the college level and primarily in chemistry, the approach appears to be directly applicable to physics, with similar benefits to be expected. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLEMENTATION RECOMMENDATIONS Clearly K-12 science education must change--and soon. The amount of technical information available to humanity doubles 27M. O'Brien and D. Chalif, CHEMATH: A learning community in Science and Math, ERIC Accession ED 335 157 (1991); D. E. Nickles, Chemist 1 (1996); S. A. Angel and D. E. LaLonde, "Science Success Strategies: An Interdisciplinary Course for Improving Science and mathematics education,"/owja/o/ Chemical Education 75 (1998): 1437; Donald J. Wink, Sharon Eetzer Gislason, Sheila D. McNicholas, Barbara J. Zusman, and Robert C. Mebane, "The MATCH Program: A Preparatory Chemistry and Intermediate Algebra Program," foumal of Chemical Education 11 (2000): 999-1000. ^^Donald J. Wink, Sharon Fetzer Gislason, and Sheila D. McNicholas, The Practice of Chemistry (New York, NY: W. H. Freeman, 2004). ^^L. P. Benezet, "The Teaching of Arithmetic I: The Story of an Experiment," foumal of the National Education Association 24 (1935): 241-244; L. P. Benezet, "The Teaching of Arithmetic II: The Story of an Expenment," Journal of the National Education Association 24 (1935): 301-303; L. P. Benezet, "The Teaching of Arithmetic III: The Story of an Experiment," foumal of the National Education Association 25 (1936): 7-8. '"Principal investigators at UNCW are Charles Ward and Jimmy Reeves. Available: http://aa.uncw.edu/numina/.
fohn R. Wilt
36l
every few years, and this information eventually makes its way into the high school science curriculum. Many teachers believe that the high school science curriculum already has as much or more information in it as can be taught in the time available and that if new information is added to the science curriculum, some existing information must be deleted. Decisions about what information to delete to make room for new information will be wrenching because science is sequential--understanding new information heavily depends on understanding prior material. A likely better solution is to make the teaching of science more efficient. The science curriculum must be examined as a whole and concepts taught as they are needed. K-12 public education must be regarded as an integrated system, not as a system of individual grade levels, disciplines, or school levels. Ninth grade physics, consequently, is a step in the right direction, with much potential benefit and few pedagogical problems. In one sense, moving physics to the 9th grade is simply correcting a mistake made a century ago, a mistake that was recognized as such at the time and unfortunately has become institutionalized. Anticipated difficulties to offering physics to 9th graders come from the need to turn the science program upside down, to re-educate many teachers in new techniques, to require teachers to write new lesson plans, and for guidance counselors and scheduling administrators to get used to the revised science sequence. Resistance by students and parents on the general grounds of "change is bad" is also likely. Obviously, considerable preparatory field work is required, such as explaining the benefits of the change to all stakeholders and, generally, selling the program. The curricula in the pilot programs should be taught by teachers who have bought into the concept and received specialized inservice education. Also recommended is district use of the Force Concept Inventory or other evaluations to assess both the magnitude of the difficulties at the beginning of the program and progress as it moves along. Some schools and school districts have successfully converted to the physics-chemistry-biology course sequence; San Diego, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts are two notable examples. Although information concerning the conversions in Cambridge and San Diego apparently has not been published in the professional literature, program information is available on the Web sites of the respective school districts.^^ Another possibility that should be considered is the substitution of the conceptual physics program for what is currently being taught in 7th and 8th grade science. This change certainly could be piloted without difficulty by using a teacher or teachers and students inter- '^Cambridge, MA, Public Schools Web site: http://www.cpsd.us/index.cfm; San Diego, CA, Public Schools Web site: http://www.sdcs.kl2.ca.us/.
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Ninth Grade Physics: A Necessity for High School Science Programs
ested in seeing that the project succeeds. Success with these pilot projects could lead to physics being offered as an addition to the middle school program. When students who participated in the program get to high school, they could better fit into the existing science program and their progress could be observed to provide both data concerning the benefits of the program and to provide a positive example leading to buy-in to the program by other stakeholders. Some method must be devised to assess elementary and middle school students' science learning. Specifically, we need to determine where and how students develop their deeply ingrained, incorrect worldview as uncovered by the extensive use of the Force Concept Inventory; the difficulty experienced in correcting this worldview indicates that it is acquired very early. The Force Concept Inventory may provide a means to achieve this purpose, although the test may have to be modified for use in upper-elementary school. If the situation requires correction, it can be corrected through the use of the kits developed by the National Academy of Sciences or the provision of knowledgeable, specialized elementary science teachers or by some other means. If the conceptual problem with the perception of physics is corrected in elementary school, the results will be long lasting. Money spent in this area can be regarded as an investment not just in benefits to students, but in terms of school resources that do not have to be expended later to undo the incorrect ideas held by students and to replace them with correct ideas. In summary, 9th grade physics is a viable concept. Questions concerning implementation should not be of the "if' variety, but rather "how" and "when." Beginning with conceptual physics in the 7th or 8th grade using interactive learning techniques has an advantage: it can be easily piloted with a few students and teachers without turning the school schedule upside down. Success with this approach will provide a basis on which to build a stronger program. As confidence in the approach builds, the merit in offering 9th grade physics in high school will become apparent. JOHN R. WILT is the retired Science Chair of Indian Land High School, Fort Mill, SC. His home address is 903 Rock Hill Highway, Lancaster, SC 29720; phone: (803) 547-7571; fax: (803) 547-7366; e-mail: [email protected]

JR Wilt

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