China Physics Workshop Update

Wiki details:

And my own emergent summary:

Still deciding where to exist online. Probably eventually

Reflections on the last 20 years in Physics Education

There have been some quite remarkable educational discoveries (if that is the right way to phrase it) in Physics Education. The ‘Golden Age” was the 1990’s. Now (in my opinion) it is the Grunt stage: putting it into practice.

One little snippet from William J. Leonard, William J. Gerace, and Robert J. Dufresne, Department of Physics & Astronomy and Scientific Reasoning Research Institute University of Massachusetts. Not available on the net anywhere (that I can find). But there is an article at

This may seem boring, but believe me, for a physics class, it can be transfomational. Everything except mere telling.

Eleven instructional modes, with short statements of purpose for each mode.

1. Use multiple representations
to enrich students understanding of concepts, and to provide alternative ways to solve problems.

2. Make forward and backward references
to help students to interconnect their knowledge store.

3. Explore extended contexts
to avoid oversimplified generalizations, and to help students abstract concepts

4. Compare and contrast
to sensitise students to those categories and features useful for analysis.

5. Classify and categorize
to make students aware of useful categories, and to increase the sophistication of ideas used to classify.

6. Predict & show (inadequacy of old model)
to help students become self-aware and self-invested, to give them practice in applying their models to new situations, and to confront other peoples’ models.

7. Explain (summarize, describe, discuss, define, etc)
to become aware of features used for analysis and problem solving and to practice using and modifying one’s model.

8. Generate multiple solutions
to encourage students to develop Strategic Knowledge elements, and to help them prioritize knowledge elements and organisational schemes.

9. Plan, justify and strategize
to develop a deeper understanding of physics concepts and their role in
problem solving, and to develop Strategic Knowledge.

10. Reflect (evaluate, integrate, extend, generalize etc)
to solidify the results of other activities and increase the likelihood that long-term change has occurred, and to help students make the knowledge they acquire useful and accessible to them at a later time.

11. Meta-communicate
to motivate students, to help students become self-invested, to address learning issues, and to improve communication.

I intend to touch on each of these in the Chuxiong Workshop. Have some fun. Stimulate some brain cells. I still remember with a little bit of horror the Workshop in 1999 where we were discussing misconceptions. There in front of everyone a some of us showed our own misconceptions . . .

Novice vs Expert

Also from Gerace et al:


I have not worked with these ideas for a while. Some literature searching shows some new applications of these ideas. But it really all comes back to Donald Simanek’s quote:

Nothing works unless the students work.

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