From the big bang to black holes, from elementary particles and the fundamental interactions that govern our universe to the world's largest and most complex scientific instruments, our knowledge of the world builds on modern physics. To make our current-best understanding available to all, we need to invest in educational research and bridge the gap between those who know science, those who teach science, and those who learn science.
This month, we are going to discuss a paper by Magdalena Kersting on a case study of middle-school girls encountering Einsteinian physics in the classroom:
In recent years, the science education research community has become increasingly interested in the learning domain of Einsteinian physics (EP). While the literature has provided accounts of how EP education can impact secondary and undergraduate students’ attitudes and engagement with physics, we still lack such research with younger students. This exploratory case study addresses this need and adds to our knowledge of how middle-school girls’ experience EP in the classroom. We report on an EP programme run with 39 girls (14–15 years) in an independent day and boarding school in Australia. Based on a phenomenographic analysis of focus group interviews and open-ended questionnaires, we document the range of students’ experiences of EP. The analysis revealed three categories of description that correspond to a personal, scientific, and holistic way of experiencing EP. These experiences influence the girls’ perception of and orientation to physics by increasing interest in physics, challenging traditional stereotypes, and showing future possibilities such as career paths in science. Our findings inform a discussion about improving instructional practices in science classrooms to realise the full potential of EP education. Furthermore, our study adds to a growing body of research that aims to foster middle-school girls’ interest in physics.
Kersting, M., Schrocker, G., & Papantoniou, S. (2021). ‘I loved exploring a new dimension of reality’–a case study of middle-school girls encountering Einsteinian physics in the classroom. International Journal of Science Education, 43(12), 2044-2064. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2021.1950943
Magdalena Kersting (Department of Science Education, University of Copenhagen, Denmark) and Julia Woithe (Science Gateway Education, CERN, Switzerland)