Final Report WG4

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The Working Group 4 (WG4) has been established with the aim to discuss, develop and propose strategies for strengthening the links between university physics departments and the teaching of physics in schools, and to increase the supply of well‐trained physics school teachers. 

Three priorities have been identified :

Supply of physics teachers and general aspect

Preservice education of physics teachers

Professional development of physics teachers

The partners decided to use different ways of collecting information on the topic of WG4 : Questionnaire to the partners of WG4, Questionnaire to students via a student organization, Preparation of benchmarks for Primary Schools, Collection of good practice, Invited talks of experts 

Conclusions and recommendations

Shortage of physics teachers

Many countries suffer from a shortage of physics teachers or foresee such a shortage within the next years. The main reasons for such a shortage are a lack of physics students in general and low attractiveness (finances, reputation) of the profession of a teacher. Only few countries have established a successful program to overcome this situation.

The study suggests that the decision to become a (physics) teacher may come too early in the parallel route, namely before starting the study. In a sequential route, the didactical and pedagogical parts may become too short and are provided too late, namely after the physics study. The German proposal shows some kind of semi‐parallel route: a full bachelor study in physics and a master study in physics teaching.

The results of Working Group 1 confirm such an approach: The answers to a questionnaire to first‐year physics students revealed that the desire to become a physics teacher is not great, way beyond that to become a researcher. Therefore an offer after the first (Bachelor) or second (Master) degree including an attractive and well‐founded study program (with regard to content and time management) could recruit persons educated already in physics.

Recommendations:

Official programs by governments and universities should be set to counteract the shortage of physics teachers. The more institutions on different levels (government, universities, unions,…) cooperate, the more likely such a program will be successful. Maybe a semi­parallel study as explained above can attract more students to choose teaching as their profession.

 

Physics Education Research

Roughly 2/3 of the partner institutions of HOPE offer a training for physics teachers in secondary schools, rarely for primary schools. These institutions do not coincide with those being engaged in PER. The number of staff working in PER shows a broad range in the different institutions. Departments involved in PER take part also in the design of materials for schools. The International Masterclasses are a well‐established program. They are organized by CERN and the University of Dresden and executed by individual physics departments. In 2016 more than 200 universities from 46 countries took part involving more than 10 000 high school students.

Recommendations:

Education at university level needs to be research based and research integrated. This should also apply to physics education. Institutions offering a training program for teacher education should provide facilities for PER. The involvement of departments in the design of material for schools is desirable in order to tie a close link between PER and actual teaching. The program IRRESISTIBLE (Annex 4) is an example of good practice. Those departments, which did not take part so far, should join such successful programs as the Masterclasses.

 

Curriculum of teacher education

Most institutions offering an education for a physics teacher are also responsible for the curriculum, at least for the physics part.

Recommendations:

The Physics Department should be responsible for the content of the curriculum of the teacher training, at least for the physics part of it.

 

Career in PER

Research in PE is considered less important for a career within a physics department compared to research in physics.

Recommendations:

Academic staff working in PER should try to increase the visibility of their research among the colleagues in their institutions. PhDs on Physics Teaching should be promoted by Physics Departments with PER activities. This should facilitate a career in PER. In addition, this provides qualified researchers of PER who can contribute to a research‐based education of future physics teachers.

 

Secondary Schools

A comparison between the various institutions is difficult, since there are different routes of education. A comparison between the education of upper and lower secondary school teachers shows that, on the average, there are substantially less ECTS for the physics education of lower secondary school teachers. There are also less ECTS in physics didactics, whereas there are slightly more ECTS for the education in pedagogy and for in‐school training. In many countries an education in science is a precursor to physics teaching. Unfortunately, science teachers are very often not educated in physics.  

Recommendation:

Since the physics education at the lower secondary school generates the basis for an understanding in physics, more care (and ECTS) should be foreseen for the physics education of those teachers. Not only teachers of upper secondary schools but also of lower secondary schools should have a university‐education in physics. More ECTS should be required for physics education.

 

Primary Schools

2/3 of the education of primary school teachers is done at universities, 1/3 outside. There is mainly a general education with not much specialization in science and almost none in physics. Science is dominated by biology.

Recommendations:

A certain amount of the general education of a primary school teacher should be dedicated to science topics. Science should exhibit a fair balance between biology, chemistry and physics. An experimental education and an application of scientific methods should be foreseen.

 

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of Physics Teachers

The majority of partners are involved in some kind of CPD. The initiative starts mainly at the university departments. Just few partners take part in the evaluation of the cooperations.

Recommendations:

Institutions which are not involved in in‐service programs should start such actions based on their expertise in PER and teacher training. Schools and teachers should be encouraged to express suggestions in which way physics departments can support science teaching at different levels. More institutions should take part in the evaluation of those projects they are involved. Communities of educational research, with partners from university and schools, should be enhanced. Governments should support and stimulate in‐service teachers in their CPD, financially and organizationally.