- Prof. Edit Yerushalmi
- Marina Boidechenko
- Genia Khaikin
- Carmel Gorni
- Dr. Amnon Hazan
- Dr. Zehorit Kapach
- Zeev Krakover
- David Perl
- Michal Sigron
- Dr. Amnon Chazan
- Dr. Elon Langbeheim
- Nancy Shalev
Secretariat and Administration:Rina Kimchi
The “Gateway to Physics” program is aimed at physics students and teachers in middle school excellence programs. The program combines active learning strategies (structured inquiry, , scientific argumentation) to develop students as ‘doers’ of physics, engage them in experimental and mathematical modeling of real-world phenomena, and increase their self-efficacy.
Over the course of the program, the students examine conflicting hypotheses about intriguing everyday phenomena; plan investigations with the help of videos that they analyze with technological tools available on their smartphone; learn the Newtonian laws and various mathematical tools – from graph representations to estimating measurement uncertainties – in order to reconcile contradictory hypotheses; present their findings and experience peer review. As part of the program, a computational modeling unit implemented in VPython was developed.
The teachers in the program, all with diverse disciplinary backgrounds (from biology to physics), participate in professional development workshops and learning communities in which they experience the learning materials – these are designed for 1-2 hours per week during the school year – and discuss the pedagogical strategies underlying the materials. They share their classroom experiences with community members, consult them, and discuss responses to challenges emerging from the field.
The program is a research framework that focuses on teachers’ perceptions and teaching methods. Previous research on the subject has dealt with teachers’ attitudes towards the assimilation of computational modeling in their classrooms.
The PhD research of Mr. David Perl, supervised by Prof. Edit Yerushalmi of the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Prof. Baruch Schwartz of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, focuses on the promotion of argumentative discourse in the physics classroom, and understanding the conditions necessary for its implementation: Collaborative argument-based learning is a dialectical process during which conflicting claims are examined. As a result of the discussion between the parties, learning-synthesis takes place. Achieving this process requires a fundamental change in the culture of the physics classroom, which necessitates long-term support frameworks for the professional development of teachers – for example, within disciplinary learning communities.
The current study seeks to identify the attitudes of teachers who participate in teacher communities toward activities designed to promote classroom argumentative discourse and detect changes in their attitudes after experiencing these activities in the classroom. The study will be conducted within communities of middle school teachers who teach physics in excellence classes. About half of the teachers have a disciplinary background, while the other half are out-of-field teachers. The study examines the following questions:
- What are the attitudes of teachers towards argumentative learning in physics? How do these attitudes depend on the teachers’ characteristics (e.g. disciplinary background)? How are they related to their epistemic perceptions of physics and their perception of their role as teachers?
- What are the primary principles when designing professional development activities that promote argumentative learning processes in the physics classroom?
Our thanks to the Eddie and Jules Trump Family Foundation and the Ministry of Education for their support of the project.