58460 - Physics Education

Course Unit Page


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

Quality education Gender equality

Academic Year 2020/2021

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 upper secondary school physics topics (e.g. thermodynamics, electromagnetism, relativity, quantum physics); - teaching tools and methodologies developed by Physics Education Research and within the History of Physics, also with respect to the role of the teacher and the teaching choices that can be made; - methods for monitoring and analysing the processes of teaching/learning physics. 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 papers, historical and epistemological texts, research papers in physics education research, popular science books, web-sites, and so on); - analyse innovative proposals for teaching physics at the secondary school level; - apply instructional methodologies and technologies to design teaching paths and experiences in relation to physics topics foreseen by the Italian syllabus for secondary schools.

Course contents

The course will address the following topics:

- Physics Education as research field: the origins, the constructivist paradigm, the research on students' knowledge, models of conceptual change (from the model of Posner, Strike, Henson and Herzog to the coordination classes by A. diSessa);

- The teaching of Special Relativity: students' difficulties on the concepts of event, frame of reference, relativity of simultaneity, proper time, length contraction; Einstein's and Minkowski's approaches compared from an educational perspective; the debate on the concepts of space and time in physics as example of the contribution that history and epistemology can provide to physics teaching/learning;

- The teaching of Thermodynamics: students' difficulties on the concepts of temperature, heat, internal energy, entropy; macroscopic and microscopic approaches compared from an educational perspective; thermodynamics as an example to design inclusive learning environments; the construct of appropriation and orchestration strategies;

- The teaching of Quantum Physics: students' difficulties on the old quantum physics; analysis of results in History and Foundation of Physics and of their “didactical transposition”; interdisciplinary between mathematics and physics; the role of metaphors in teaching/learning quantum physics at the secondary school level.

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

During the course a special attention will be paid to analyze and discuss the following transversal themes:

- gender issues in teaching/learning physics;

- science & society;

and the following transversal competences will be developed:

- critical thinking;

- competences of team-working;

- communication skills.

Tre course can be part of the "24 CFU path" needed to apply for the FIT program (the italian program of pre-service teacher education): https://www.unibo.it/it/didattica/formazione-insegnanti/percorso-di-formazione-inserimento-e-tirocinio-fit.


Teaching materials will be uploaded on a shared folder and made available on the Moodle platform of the course.

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 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.

Since interactive teaching methods will be implemented, attendance at lessons is strongly recommended.

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.

The first part of the exam will assess student's ability to:

1) move within the sources and bibliographical references in order to select significant materials for the teaching of physics (up to 10 points);

2) find and and use results in physics education research in order to build specific analysis criteria (up to 10 points);

3) integrate the different dimensions involved in the teaching of physics (disciplinary, cognitive, epistemological, educational) (up to 10 points).

The second part of the exam will evaluate:

1) the level of comprehension of a concept or topic addressed during the course (up to 15 points);

2) student's ability to analyze such a concept or topic from an educational perspective, that is the ability to recognize what aspects of the concept/topics are problematic for understanding (up to 10 points);

3) student's ability to situate the discussion of this theme or concept within a wider cultural and educational perspective and/or within a teaching path (up to 5 points).

The final mark will be the average between the points obtained in the first and in the second part of the exam.

For the students who can not attend classes, the assessment methods will be different. There is a guided plan for reading and analyzing texts and teaching materials. The reading and analysis plan will lead to the production of written reports, that are preparatory to an oral examination. The methods are described in detail in the proper folder that is uploaded to the platform at the beginning of the course. However, NON-attending students are asked to contact the teacher.

Teaching tools

Power-point presentations, educational movies, web-sites

Office hours

See the website of Olivia Levrini