Transforming Content

In the intro physics course I teach, students take FCI on first day of class, and then again just yesterday. I don’t expect very high gains.

Although, there are many interactive features of the classroom (e.g., clickers, white-boarding, small-group discussion), the course content, materials, and pacing is very traditional. Thus, the same old physics course has been dressed up in reforms, but very little has fundamentally changed.

Often, interactive classrooms can facilitate three kinds of changes to content:

  • First, they can facilitate a transformation of what physics content is. Often this begin with a teacher who is starting to reconceptualize what that content is, and the interactive features of the classroom serve as a catalyst to drive that “content-reconceptualization” reaction.
  • Second, they can facilitate a change in the relationship between students and that transformed content. By giving students places to create, share, and negotiate the meaning of physics content in public ways, the possibility emerges that they become authors of content, not merely passive consumers.
  • Third, they can facilitate a change in the way teachers view the relationship between themselves, their students, and the content. Whether it be a view that students arrive in the classroom with misconceptions that impede learning or they arrive with resources that are assets for learning, the views are one in which students are viewed as already having a relationship with physics content–one that must be attended to as part of their learning.

These three changes are all about physics content–What the content of a physics course is? Who makes the content of a physics course? And where the raw materials of physics content lie?

This is the biggest obstacle I see for this course–not what new reforms practices to put in place, but how to begin a transformation of the content of the course. The three transformations above speak to different entry points to such change–changing teachers views of content, changing the contact students make with content (curriculum), and changing teachers views of learners of that content.


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