36564 - Physics Teaching: theoretical and experimental aspects

Academic Year 2023/2024

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student will know. - the main results obtained by Physics Education Research regarding the conceptual, epistemological, linguistic and educational knots related to the teaching and learning of basic physics topics (e.g. kinematics, dynamics, optics, calorimetry); - the main results obtained by Physics Education Research regarding the role of the laboratory in teaching/learning physics and the different approaches to physics lab; - teaching tools and methodologies developed by Physics Education Research. The student will be able to: - analyse research materials (questionnaires and transcripts of audio- and video- recording) concerning emblematic moments of learning; - use various texts and materials for designing teaching/learning experiences (textbooks, original - analyse innovative proposals for teaching physics; - reflect on the role of the laboratory in teaching/learning physics; - apply instructional methodologies and technologies to design teaching experiences able to exploit the role of lab and ICT tools.

Course contents

The course concerns introductory physics topics (Kinematics, Mechanics) and on more advanced topic (science of complex systems). About these topics knowledge and abilities introduced and developed in the course concern:

  • Physics Education research field: history, methods and open problems;

  • Research on students' difficulties in understanding physics: analysis and discussion of experimental data (from interviews, discussions and questionnaires) and of results from Physics Education research;

  • The role of history and epistemology of Physics in the teaching/learning processes;

  • The meaning and role of models and modelling processes in Physics and in teaching/learning Physics;

  • Interdisciplinarity between mathematics and physics;

  • Strategies and methods in education (interactive lessons, peer-to-peer interaction, tutorials, cooperative learning, etc.).

Texts of different nature (e.g.: sections from school texts, research articles, historical-epistemological essays) are analysed in order to become familiar with the various aspects of Physics Education: the conceptual/disciplinary, the cognitive, the epistemological, the educational practical ones.

The course includes a module on the topic "thought experiments and simulations ", aimed at:

  • discussing the role of thought experiments and simulations as  scientific tools for research in physics;
  • unpacking the role of thought experiments and simulations as educational tools;
  • analyzing the role of thought experiments and simulations for future-literacy.

The course can be reconsigned as part of the 24 CFU path for FIT (the Italian program of pre-service teacher education): https://www.unibo.it/it/didattica/formazione-insegnanti/percorso-di-formazione-inserimento-e-tirocinio-fit

In consideration of the type of activity and the teaching methods adopted, the attendance of this training activity requires the prior participation of all students in the training modules 1 and 2 on safety in the study places, in e-learning mode [https://elearning-sicurezza.unibo.it/].

The course participates in the University project of teaching experimentation.


Teaching materials are made available in a shared folder and also in the moodle platform.

The materials include slides and presentations, research articles and other materials for study (e.g.: tutorials, guides for group activities, research tools, students' protocols, etc.).

The following texts are suggested (and available from the teacher) for deeper study of the course topics.

Gagliardi M., Giordano E. (2014), Metodi e strumenti per l'insegnamento e l'apprendimento della fisica, EdiSES.

Besson U. (2015), Didattica della fisica, Carocci.

Vicentini M., Mayer M. (a cura di) (1999). Didattica della Fisica, Loescher Editore.

Grimellini Tomasini N., Segré G. (a cura di) (1991). Conoscenze scientifiche: le rappresentazioni mentali degli studenti, La Nuova Italia, Firenze.

Teaching methods

The course is so designed as to illustrate a large variety of educational methods.

In particular the students experience on themselves different types of lesson (socratic/dialogical vs. academic lectures), peer-to peer evaluation, group work supported by tutorials.
Lab sessions include small group activities aimed to analyse simulations and/or to carry out and analyse experiments from an educational point of view.

Assessment methods

The final examination is held in the oral format. Each student is asked to discuss topics from those covered in the lessons, starting from the analysis of the materials and research articles considered in the course. The exam will foresee also the discussion on exercises and problems used in physics education research to investigate students' knowledge and/or teaching effectiveness.

Specifically, the final examination evaluates the following knowledge and competences:

  • disciplinary and Physics Education Research (PER) knowledge acquired during the course and based on the supplied teaching materials;
  • ability to analyse, from an educational point of view, a problem or a questionnaire elaborated and used in Physics Education Research (PER);
  • ability to analyse the content of papers in PER;
  • ability to discuss tools, methods and results of PER;
  • ability to analyse teaching modules and recognise their conceptual, cognitive, epistemological, linguistic, educational knots;
  • ability to discuss possibile implications of research results on the design of educational paths in Physics.

Assessment rubric:

a) disciplinary correctness (up to 10 points);
b) quantity and richness of information used in answering the questions (up to 10 points);
c) quality of the argumentation - the quality of the argumentation includes the ability to develop an argumentation in a coherent way, the ability to base the argument on research results, the ability to articulate the argumentation on different dimensions (conceptual, cognitive, epistemological, linguistic, didactic) of a typical discourse of PER (up to 7 points);
d) level of personal appropriation and re-elaboration (up to 3 points).

Teaching tools

Ppt presentations, research materials, video and multimedia materials (e.g.: educational applets, movies, recorded materials from implementation of teaching sequences in secondary schools, etc.).

Office hours

See the website of Olivia Levrini


Quality education Gender equality Climate Action

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.