58460 - Physics Education

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2017/2018

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student will have competences for designing effective and meaningful paths for teaching physics at the secondary school level. Particular attention will be paid to the crucial passage from classical  to modern physics (relativity and quantum physics).
In more detail, the student will be provided with cultural and professional tools for: - analysing and discussing results of the research in Physics Education about how secondary and university students cope with key-concepts;  - analysing research materials (audio- and video- recording) concerning emblematic moments of learning; - using various texts and materials for teaching (textbooks, original papers, historical and epistemological texts, popular science books, web-sites, and so on); - analyising innovative proposals for teaching physics at the secondary school level and constructing criteria for desinging new paths.

Course contents

-    Physics Education as research field: the origins, the constructivist paradigm, the research on students' knowledge, models of conceptual change;
-    Images of physics and implications on the teaching/learning processes: results from empirical studies;
-    Presentation and discussion of a teaching path on Relativity as example of “educational re-construction”: textbook analysis, criteria for instruction design, analysis of experimentations carried out with upper secondary students;
-    Discussion of problems in teaching Quantum Physics: analysis of results in History and Foundation of Physics and of their “didactical transposition”;
-    Discussion of problems in teaching Thermodynamics: analysis of results in Physic Education and of teaching paths implemented in school.

Texts of different nature (e.g.: sections from school textbooks, research articles, historical-epistemological essays, research materials) 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.

Transversal themes and competences will be developed throughout the course:

- gender issues in teaching/learning physics;

- science & society;

- critical thinking;

- competences of team-working;

- communication skills.


Teaching materials are made available in a dropbox folder and also in the UNIBO site AMS Campus-AlmaDL through personal username and password.

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.

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 designed as to illustrate a large variety of educational methods.

Students will experience on themselves different types of lesson (socratic/dialogical vs. academic lectures), micro teaching activities, peer-to peer evaluation, cooperative learning, group work supported by tutorials.

Assessment methods

The exam consists of an oral task divided into two parts.
I part
-    Presentation and discussion of the analysis of a text or a teaching support concerning a topic of contemporary physics. The text/support can be a chapter of a textbook, a research paper in physics education, a popular scientific book, an original article, an historical-epistemological essay, a web-site, an educational movie, applet. The presentation of the analysis has to include a discussion of: i) the criteria for selecting the text/support, ii) the general and specific criteria chosen to carry out the analysis, iii) the research references used to carry out the analysis; iv ) the results of the analysis; v) a global assessment of the material from the perspective of its possible implementation in class.
II part
-    Discussion about concepts or topics addressed in the course both from a disciplinary and an educational point of view.


In the first part of the exam it will be assessed the student's ability to: 1) move within the sources and bibliographical references in order to select significant materials for the teaching of physics, 2) find and  and use results in physics education research in order to build specific analysis criteria, and 3) integrate the different dimensions involved in the teaching of physics (disciplinary, cognitive, epistemological, educational).
In the second part of the exam it will be evaluated: 1) the level of comprehension of a concept or topic addressed during the course, 2) the student's ability to analyze such a concept or topic from an educational perspective, that is by recognizing what aspects of the concept/topics are problematic for understanding, and 3) the student's ability to place the discussion of this theme or concept within a wide cultural and educational perspective and within a teaching path.

Teaching tools

Power-point presentations, educational movies, web-sites

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Olivia Levrini