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Department of Physics

Dr. David Hammer
Tufts University
 David Hammer
Teaching physics as a pursuit
102 Cardwell Hall
November 17, 2014
4:30 p.m.


The assumption remains pervasive that the core objective of science instruction is a body of canonical knowledge. It underlies instructional practices, assessments of learning, and even progressive "inquiry-based" curricula. Meanwhile, for many students, physics class is still disconnected from genuine pursuit of understanding.

The assumption, I suggest, is a "misconception" of the community as a system. If "physics is what physicists do," then physics is a pursuit of understanding. But, like a student who keeps thinking force causes motion, the physics education community keeps thinking the goal is a particular set of concepts.

I will argue for concerted effort to address the misconception, of research as well as of design and politics. The point is not to eliminate the canon but genuinely to prioritize students' learning physics as a pursuit. I will discuss challenges and possibilities for curriculum, assessment, and responsive teaching, with video examples from a college introductory courses.