Subject-specific instructional methods and activities: Volume 8

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Table of contents

(18 chapters)

Effective physics instruction will include all aspects of the framework described in this chapter. Teachers need to identify students' problematic ideas and continually monitor students' thinking. Teachers should focus on helping students generate, test, and modify their ideas. Teaching should promote a deep understanding of observations, inferences and relations organized in a conceptual framework. Exemplary teaching should result in a functional understanding of ideas and processes that can be applied appropriately across multiple and even novel context.

While one aspect of the framework may play more of role during certain parts of a unit, they are all present in the expert teachers' minds as they help move students from their initial ideas to reaching the learning goals of the course. This is accomplished through small cycles of instruction that are informed through a continuous monitoring of students' conceptual understanding. Each cycle bringing the understanding of the student and the learning goals for the course closer together, thus crossing the gap from research to standards-based, exemplary classroom practice.

It is important to emphasize that exemplary physics instruction requires exemplary physics teachers. The teaching skills required in the framework described are not embedded in a particular curriculum or series of activities, but reside with the individual teacher. Teachers often spend years refining these skills and adapting activities to reach all the learners under their charge.

One important component to refining these skills is the depth to which a teacher understands and can apply the concepts they are teaching. Knowing the content at a deep level is required to help students achieve a functional understanding of the concepts. The path to acquiring this depth of understanding is the same for the teacher as it is for the student. The preparation and professional development of teachers must be in environments in which all four aspects of the framework are in place.

In addition, knowledge of the nature of learning will impact the implementation of the aspects of this instructional framework. It is not enough for the teacher to have an understanding of the material; they must also have an understanding of how one comes to know what they know. Finally, the teacher needs to develop pedagogical content knowledge. They need to have available extensive knowledge of particular curricular activities, how students will respond to the activities, and what learning can be expected from the activities. Teachers need to know the learning targets, the initial thinking of students, and how to cross the gap from initial ideas to functional conceptual understanding.

This task of becoming an exemplary teacher may seem daunting, especially for those new to teaching. However, as with every profession, expertise is not something one attains; expertise is something for which we continually strive.

Cover of Subject-specific instructional methods and activities
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Advances in Research on Teaching
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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