Didactical reconstructions for organizing knowledge in physics teacher education

University of Helsinki, Finland

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Abstract

Physics teachers are in a key position to form the attitudes and conceptions of future generations toward science and technology, as well as to educate future generations of scientists. Therefore, good teacher education is one of the key areas of physics departments education program. This dissertation is a contribution to the research-based development of high quality physics teacher education, designed to meet three central challenges of good teaching. The first challenge relates to the organization of physics content knowledge. The second challenge, connected to the first one, is to understand the role of experiments and models in (re)constructing the content knowledge of physics for purposes of teaching. The third challenge is to provide for pre-service physics teachers opportunities and resources for reflecting on or assessing their knowledge and experience about physics and physics education. This dissertation demonstrates how these challenges can be met when the content knowledge of physics, the relevant epistemological aspects of physics and the pedagogical knowledge of teaching and learning physics are combined.

The theoretical part of this dissertation is concerned with designing two didactical reconstructions for purposes of physics teacher education: the didactical reconstruction of processes (DRoP) and the didactical reconstruction of structures (DRoS). This part starts with taking into account the required professional competencies of physics teachers, the pedagogical aspects of teaching and learning, and the benefits of the graphical ways of representing knowledge. Then it continues with the conceptual and philosophical analysis of physics, especially with the analysis of experiments and models role in constructing knowledge. This analysis is condensed in the form of the epistemological reconstruction of knowledge justification. Finally, these two parts are combined in the designing and production of the DRoP and DRoS. The DRoP captures the knowledge formation of physical concepts and laws in concise and simplified form while still retaining authenticity from the processes of how concepts have been formed. The DRoS is used for representing the structural knowledge of physics, the connections between physical concepts, quantities and laws, to varying extents. Both DRoP and DRoS are represented in graphical form by means of flow charts consisting of nodes and directed links connecting the nodes.

The empirical part discusses two case studies that show how the three challenges are met through the use of DRoP and DRoS and how the outcomes of teaching solutions based on them are evaluated. The research approach is qualitative; it aims at the in-depth evaluation and understanding about the usefulness of the didactical reconstructions. The data, which were collected from the advanced course for prospective physics teachers during 2001?2006, consisted of DRoP and DRoS flow charts made by students and student interviews. The first case study discusses how student teachers used DRoP flow charts to understand the process of forming knowledge about the law of electromagnetic induction. The second case study discusses how student teachers learned to understand the development of physical quantities as related to the temperature concept by using DRoS flow charts. In both studies, the attention is focused on the use of DRoP and DRoS to organize knowledge and on the role of experiments and models in this organization process. The results show that students understanding about physics knowledge production improved and their knowledge became more organized and coherent. It is shown that the flow charts and the didactical reconstructions behind them had an important role in gaining these positive learning results. On the basis of the results reported here, the designed learning tools have been adopted as a standard part of the teaching solutions used in the physics teacher education courses in the Department of Physics, University of Helsinki.

Full reference

Mäntylä, Terhi (2011). Didactical reconstructions for organizing knowledge in physics teacher education. Helsinki: Unigrafia. (Report Series in Physics HU-P-D177, ISSN 0356-0961) - Print ISBN 978-952-10-5991-9, Electronical ISBN 978-952-10-6871-3.

Available online: http://urn.fi/ URN:ISBN:978-952-10-6871-3 (Language: English)

List of Papers

Koponen, I. T., Mäntylä, T., & Lavonen, J. (2004). The role of physics departments in developing student teachers' expertise in teaching physics. European Journal of Physics, 25, 645-653.

Mäntylä, T., & Koponen, I. T. (2004). Conceptual hierarchy of physics as a principle leading to structured knowledge in physics teacher education. In Laine, A., Lavonen, J., & Meisalo, V (eds.), Current research on mathematics and science education (pp. 370-390). Proceedings of the XXI Annual Symposium of the Finnish Association of Mathematics and Science Education Research. Research Report 253. Yliopistopaino, Helsinki.
Koponen, I. T., & Mäntylä, T. (2006). Generative role of experiments in physics and in teaching physics: A suggestion for epistemological reconstruction. Science & Education, 15, 31-54.

Koponen, I. T., & Mäntylä, T. (2006). Models and modelling in physics education: A review of philosophical underpinnings. In Asunta, T., & Viiri, J. (eds.), Pathways into research-based teaching and learning in mathematics and science education (pp. 19-27). Proceedings of the Annual Symposium of the Finnish Association of Mathematics and Science Education Research. Jyväskylän yliopisto, Opettajankoulutuslaitos 2006, tutkimuksia 84, Jyväskylän yliopistopaino, Jyväskylä.

Mäntylä, T. Didactical reconstruction of processes in knowledge construction: Pre-service physics teachers learning the law of electromagnetic induction. Accepted for publication in Research in Science Education, 2011. doi: 10.1007/s11165-011-9217-6

Mäntylä, T., & Koponen, I. T. (2007). Understanding the role of measurements in creating physical quantities: A case study of learning to quantify temperature in physics teacher education. Science & Education, 16, 291-311.

Correspondence

Terhi Mäntylä
Department of Physics, University of Helsinki
P.O. Box 64, FI-00014 Helsinki
Finland
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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