I agree with Professor Allain's Wired blog post completely . . . but I can see why most people would disagree. People who don't get this blog will merely see this as a debate of words (i.e. don't use this word . . . use this word). That's not it. It is a debate of teaching methods--constructivist/Socratic methods as opposed to traditional methods. I do not believe Professor Allain is merely suggesting that we replace the terms hypothesis, theory and scientific law with the term model and that we keep on teaching as we have done in the past.

The problem is externally imposed definitions usually through lecture or by supplying them before understanding has been repeatedly demonstrated in novel situations does not lead to understanding. Most science instructors know this. But most do not put this understanding into action in their classrooms because they don't know how to. Many have tried but they don't want students to form "incorrect" conceptual understandings--NEWS FLASH--that is what they come into your classroom with in the first place and giving them the "correct" definitions will not address the issue.

Some instructors might say: "I don't do that". If an instructor gives labs with a set of directions to follow that were not student created or if an instructor gives a lab after the student was held accountable in some way for understanding it (i.e. homework, worksheets, lectures, reading, etc.) then in fact that is exactly what they are doing. 

Other instructors might say: "I don't have time to follow constructivist/Socratic methods (i.e. too much curriculum to cover before the test)." Coverage does not translate into understanding. I grant you that if the content tested is lower level questions and if it is heavily laden with terminology then it will be doubtful that students will do well if that content hasn't been taught. However coverage does not equate to being "taught".

Supplying carefully constructed definitions will not correct student misconceptions. Only the student can fix their own misconceptions. It is the instructor's job to create activities and SITUATIONS for the student do just that. Most instructors are masters of creating activities because this is something they have can exercise absolute control over. But in reality true student understanding does not occur in these carefully designed activities it is through the DISCUSSIONS and DIALOGUES that occur before, during, and after the activities that really matter. Science instruction needs to be thought of as less a "science" and more a "craft". 

It is mentally fatiguing to craft the Socratic discussion/dialogue to arrive at the destination that you desire. Each class is different. Each student is different. The instructor has to be on top of their game at every moment to react at a moments notice to explore a student's statement that arises. I liken it to helping students to navigate a rapids. The instructor has to be in the moment as opposed to following a road map. As an instructor gets more comfortable with these techniques he/she will realize that the controlling activities they prided themselves on creating in the past actually tend to hinder NOT help student understanding.

Novice learners play and discover and make their own meaning. A thoughtful reflective mentor doesn't lecture and give definitions. The thoughtful reflective mentor converses with his/her students openly, facilitates non-judgemental conversations among novice students, and encourages introspective reflective thinking. The thoughtful reflective mentor asks probing open-ended questions in the language of his/her students in novel situations. The thoughtful reflective mentor then slowly introduces the accepted terminology of the scientific community ONLY after the students makes known to him/herself, his/her peers, and his/her instructor through open dialogue and Socratic discussion that the phenomena is understood in a variety of contexts.

The conversation is the most important part of learning--not the externally provided definition. It is through this just-in-time formative feedback and thoughtful and thought provoking discussion that the thoughtful and reflective mentor is able to be most impactful. Being able to apply the concepts behind the terminology in novel contexts and in everyday life is what counts. Being able to use the jargon is of secondary importance.
 
 
Chapters 4-6

I have mixed feelings about this section.  While I agree with the premise that we need to "explore how we can incorporate opportunities within our classrooms to allow students to build a better understanding of science through engaging in language activities (Hand, et. al., p. 57)", I do not believe that this means that students need to create written products that are turned in or are done individually.  In fact I contend that this goes counter to many of the points made in the book.

I agree whole-heartedly with the "language to learn" philosophy as opposed to the "mechanistic position" of memorizing vocabulary lists prior to scientific work.  In Modeling Physics students construct their own terminology to describe their observations and negotiate it with their peers through consensus building.  When the time is right, the technical terms are shared and negotiated into student's conceptual frameworks through more consensus building (Just-in-time vocabulary).  In this way students "have much greater connections to science" by building "from what they know (Hand, et. al., p. 59)".  In the Modeling approach argumentation is critical in the negotiation process as students "discuss, debate, and defend their results and conclusions (Hand, et. al., p. 59)."

Similar to the Modeling methodology, the Science Writing Heuristic approach puts students off the traditional school game.  "I don't like the SWH. . . . I know how to play the game and score well on tests.  Now the rules have changed.  It isn't about playing the game, it is about learning, and I have to work just like everyone else.  Just memorizing doesn't work anymore and I have to work at this.--Student Perspective (Hand, et. al., p. 77)"

Something that intrigues me about this approach is that SWH is documented to close the achievement gap for traditionally low-achieving students.  I believe that Modeling methodology  would do likewise however these students don't typically make through to physics.  Physics-first though would achieve these gains.  But how do schools go from being Biology-Chemistry-Physics to being Physics-Chemistry-Biology?  I just don't see how this is done logistically given staffing abilities.

Like Modeling methodology, learners in the SWH approach construct knowledge and critique knowledge through public negotiation and argumentation (Hand, et. al., p. 86).  Personally I know that I need to become more effective at getting students out of the "school-game" mode and get them to critique knowledge.  They present but very seldom do they attend and critique no matter how much prodding and cajoling from me.  This is a real weakness that I need to address.

The major difficulty I have with Modeling is getting students to ask questions of one another, to be critical of others' statements and to be self-reflective.  Too often they look to me for the answer.  They are trapped in a "school mind-set".  I need to uses strategies to avoid the pitfalls and to pull students out of this trap.  I need to ask more questions.  I need to deflect questions to other students "What do you think about what Susie said? (Hand, et. al., p. 209)" . . ."How could you find that out? . . . What do you think would happen if you tried that? . . . Why is that important? (Hand, et. al., p. 115)".  Another issue is knowing how hard you can push students with this stance. I must be able to accurately gauge their level of frustration and to be able to talk them down (get them to breathe, to laugh) (Hand, et. al., p. 115).  Whenever I am asked for an answer I do my best to state my mantra of "I have never seen that before.  What do you think?"

Sometimes students pose ridiculous questions that have no connection to what we are investigating just to test my resolve at not playing the school game.  I need to refocus with these questions . . .

  • "How do you think this question will help you build your knowledge on the topic?
  • Do you think that is a good question?
  • How does your question compare to the criteria for a testable question?
  • Ask other students what they think of the question and prompt the poser to defend his/her question."  (Hand, et. al., p. 105)


In order to have greater success in whiteboarding situations (negotiating and arguing), I need "to develop ground rules for public negotiation of ideas" so that I can bring "students into the process. (Hand, et. al., p. 107)  The authors state "that students will invest a great deal more energy and thought into their discourse when it is being evaluated, challenged, shaped, or supported by their peers rather than by you, or in addition to you as teacher (Hand, et. al., p. 108)."

Perhaps I should have the students come up with the standard for a good presentation and then they can measure (and so can I) their performance against the standard.  If students refuse to play by these new ground rules then there has to be consequences and follow through.  The suggestion that the authors present is that the offenders are offered a choice:  choose how you intend to learn new rules or segregated old rules (solitary worksheets, reading guides, etc.).  

Quotes:
"Providing correct answers doesn't make students correct their conceptual framework to match the teacher's conceptualization."--Hand, et. al., p. 79

"Students . . . need to know that anytime they share their ideas, they need to be prepared to discuss them . . . they can't get away with 'I don't know' as an easy way out. . . . (it) will be followed by more questions to get at what they do know.  Thinking is required!"--Hand, et. al. p. 107

"An indication of the success of teacher questioning strategies is how well students begin to ask questions of themselves and of others."--Hand, et. al. p. 115

"(A)ll must think and defend thoughts."--Teacher's Voice, Hand, et. al. p. 116

"At the end of the SWH the student/scientist/lawyer will need to convince a classroom of peers that his or her argument explaining the question is valid based on the evidence, which the student build from the data."--Hand, et. al. p. 128

"The story built from the data that leads to a claim is the evidence."--Hand, et. al., p. 129
 
 
Chapters 1-3:  

This book completely validates the Modeling Philosophy in Physics.  Its all about student-centered classrooms.  The teacher of the student-centered classroom realizes that the most important thing that must be accomplished is that students need to express what they are thinking.  

The authors state that students are constantly negotiating with new information.  If we want to know what they are learning then we need them to demonstrate their understanding through verbal and written expression.  It is in this way that we can create activities that will cause them to confront their misunderstandings in a way that makes their negotiated meanings open to public discourse.  One of the most important keys in this process is creating a non-threatening environment.

On its face it seems like creating a non-threatening environment would be an exceedingly easy thing to do.  However to do this the teacher cannot be perceived as the expert or the arbitrator of right and wrong.  If he/she is then the environment is automatically threatening.  However if the teacher is able to successfully deflect all such questions to other members of the class to arrive at consensus then it will be non-threatening.  The second key is to provide many grouping opportunities for students to express their negotiated understandings.  

So far I highly recommend this book.

Here are some quotes:
"(T)eaching should be driven by your students' learning."--Hand, et. al., pg 1

"Our job as teachers requires us to think more deeply about learning and understand . . . how our students learn."--Hand, et. al. p 200

"(L)earning is an activity that is undertaken by the individual over which we as teachers have no control. . ."--Hand, et. al. p. 32

"If we as teachers have no control over what is going on inside an individual's head, then we have to be able to engage with learners in ways that feature their knowledge at the center of the conversation."--Hand, et. al. p. 29

"The first thing that we teachers need to do is to determine what students know about a topic"--Hand, et. al. p. 30

The teacher cannot be seen as the givers of knowledge.  "(During) information sharing sessions it is essential that opportunities be built in for students to make connections between new information and the big ideas of the unit. . . . We as teachers need to plan opportunities for public negotiation between new information and the big ideas."--Hand, et. al. p. 43


"Student-centered learning strategies are not about students guessing what is in the teacher's head, but rather the teacher finding out what is in the students' heads."  Questioning strategies are critical for airing this information.  "We have to retrain the students to make public their reasoning strategies and how they have constructed their arguments. . . . (W)e need to get out of the way.  We talk far too much. . . . (P)ose questions that require students to move beyond recall . . . When students answer the question, two things have to happen:  We have to stop making judgments about the answer . . . we are (not) the arbitrator (of knowledge) . . . ask 'Why?'" and there must be group consensus.  One way to keep from passing judgement is by pushing this responsibility to the students, "Mary, is John's answer O.K.? Why?" . . . If students agree to an incorrect answer then the teacher must be adept enough to "pose a question that will challenge the answer. . . . Change to their ideas occurs because the students make the change, not because we want or tell them to. . . . Give students time to talk through possible answers with their colleagues. . . . (C)hallenge the students.  Do not let them know they have arrived at the answer--test the confidence they have in the answer"--Hand, et. al. p. 48 and p. 55

Students "will resist the fact that you are not going to supply the answer.  They will complain that you are not doing your job.  However, what does become obvious quickly is that the quiet students tend to find a voice because now they do not have to fear being wrong.  The low-achieving students who do not play the memory game well can now become involved because the questions are not about right or wrong but about the bid ideas."--Hand, et. al. p. 49

"Students are engaged in individual negotiation of meaning" all the time, as they are sitting quietly in their seats.  "If we as teachers constantly ask questions that have only one acceptable answer, then individual negotiation by students in never challenged." . . . Group work shifts negotiation from private to public.  "We want students to put their ideas out there to be challenged by their peers. . . . (S)mall group work is an ideal, nonthreatening way for all students to be involved in working with their own ideas.  Remember, individuals control their own learning process and teachers structure the learning environment."--Hand, et. al. p. 51 & 53





 
 
Picture
My daughter and I were lucky enough to catch a few glimpses of the transit of Venus.  Yesterday I was trying to figure out how I was going to view it safely and I was also trying to figure out exactly when I should start to view it.  I had to school myself on UTC, time zones, and day-light savings time (thanks internet!).  I also had to decide between a number of viewing methods.  I had already eliminated welding glass and solar glasses so the options were either pin hole camera method or a projection method.  I decided on a projection method so that my whole family could see it together.

My daughter was assaulting me with questions--"How are we going to see it?  Why can't we look at the sun?  But I thought you said we can't look at the sun?  Why is this such a big deal daddy?"  I decided to buy myself some time so I asked her to go to her room and calculate how old she will be the next time Venus transits the sun a little over 105 years from now.

Unfortunately she lost all of her math ability somewhere between the bus stop and her bedroom sometime within the last week and so I had to reteach her how to add several multi-digit numbers.  Although I didn't end up buying myself any time, evidently I did make an impression on her.  "I will be 112 years old!"  I asked her if she knew anyone that old.  Her grandparents and her great-grandma will be happy to know that none of their names came up.  She couldn't think of anyone or anything that old.  My wife and I affirmed that neither could we.  So I tried again, "So why is this such a big deal?"  And my daughter said that more than likely we wouldn't be alive anymore and that perhaps her kids or grand-kids would see it.  Yeah!

In the picture above my daughter is pointing at the small shadow of Venus.  This was at about 7:30 pm EST.  Mostly we had overcast skies but we had about a dozen instances where the clouds broke.  We could even discern at least five sunspots.  My daughter and I went to school earlier in the day to get a couple stands, variable angle clamps, and rods to support a regular pair of binoculars.  I affixed the binoculars to the support rods with some rubber bands and left the lens covers on one side of the binoculars so that the light only went through one side.  It worked perfectly.

 
 
According to Delores Gende these changes will not occur until 2015 because we have to wait for the AP Biology and then AP Chemistry changes.  AP Physics B1 will be a one year high school equivalent to a first semester algebra-based college physics course.  AP Physics B2 will be a one year high school equivalent to the second semester college course.

There will be 7 big ideas:  1) objects and systems may have internal structures and properties, 2) fields existing in space can be used to explain interactions, 3)   the interactions of an object with other objects can be described by forces  or momentum swaps, 4)  interactions btwn systems results in changes, 5)  interactions are constrained by conserv laws, 6)  waves can transfer energy and momentum,  7) mathematics of probability: behaviour of complex systems.

According to Delores this is an excellent fit for Modeling.  So for the 2015 school year all AP students should take AP phys I, then Eng/Sci take AP Physics C second year, and premed take AP phys 2.  Also I will have to go through the audit process again.  I think I want to re-audit for the two C classes to separate them from the B material (should make my job easier) and I will want to re-audit for the two B classes.  Separately I will need to change the course description for AP Physics that I currently have to being for C only and change Honors Physics to AP Physics B1.  Need to talk to Dianne about this to see if I have to make recommendations to FAC and if there is any paper work that I will need to fill out.  Perhaps I might have to do this for AP Physics B2.

I predict the numbers of students taking AP Physics B1 will grow as will those taking AP Physics C.  Not sure what will happen with AP Physics B2.  I don't think there will be enough interest in it.
 
 
In addition to traditional Ohm's law labs and equivalent resistance (parallel and series circuits).  Rob Spencer suggested a P vs. V "dry" lab.  I think it could be done though with a vanity bar???
 
 
This was a challenge to connect the concepts of charges, e-fields, and potential.  The group drew a charged capacitor, 2 light bulbs in series and an open switch.  We were asked how we knew it was charged and what had to be done to do this and what exists in the capacitor.

We were talking about how the "charges pile up" right before the resistor/light bulb (I have a problem with this idea--all charge carriers in a circuit have the same drift speed--the volume flow rate must be constant--all circuit components with zero resistance in any particular branch need to have same KE of charge carrieres).  We also talked about how the pressure before the resistor was higher than after.  I am more comfortable with this approach.
 
 
Need a small massed handle on generator (should use genecon generator or make of small motor with prop????).  They use an LED to indicate the charging of the capacitor.  I wonder if it would be a good idea for students to figure out for themselves that LED are unidirectional.  Bi-directional LED's might be a good idea.
 
 
Bob presented how he does electric field mapping & equipotential surfaces mapping.  He uses carbon paper and paints various conducting surfaces.  Also hollow and solid objects are put in between.  A probe is put at various locations and the coordinates are recorded with the potential.  Bob recommends that you give each group different shapes to motivate them to get their data quickly (some nit picky take forever on one data point and there are a possible 500 data points--it takes a long time).

Then this data is put into excel and plotted 3-D to show the equipotential surfaces and to help students make the connection with gravity.  Then they print out a 2-D black/white equipotential map and draw in their perpendicular E-field lines.  

A variation of this activity is to use a container of water over a grid and the water is the conductor.  I like this way because students actually see this as "real".  With the conductive paper students don't see the lines drawn on the paper as being a 3-D object like a plate.  In their minds this isn't real.  It might be a good idea to use LED's to show the directionality of the e-fields in the water container.


 
 
I was thinking about justifications for the particle model of light besides the photo electric effect and started thinking about the Compton effect showing that light has momentum which a wave would not have since there is no net transfer of mass but I think its too complicated to explain let alone replicate in high school.

A physics question came to mind while thinking about the Compton effect.  I understand why we relate frequency to energy since color is related to energy.  Additionally, color and frequency are constant in refraction experiments whereas speed and wavelength change.  However why do we relate photon momentum to wavelength.  I understand that the wavelength changes for Compton scattering as does the momentum of the photon.  However since the speed of light is constant the "color" of the light (frequency) also changes.

A few possibilities that came to mind:
a.
 Conservation of energy is a symmetry is time and conservation of momentum is a symmetry in space so it kind of makes sense that since frequency is related to time it would be associated with energy and since wavelength is related to space it would be associated with momentum.
b.  The Bohr atom indicates that angular momentum (not linear) is quantized.  Usually this is shown as an electron exhibiting wavelike properties of a standing wave and thus not radiating and spiraling into the nucleus so it looks (based on diagrams) that the wavelength is important however without just the right frequency there wouldn't be a standing wave.
c.  Since frequency is related to energy perhaps it would be better not to associate it with momentum so by default wavelength is related to momentum.


I know I missing something I just don't know what it is.