Newtonian mechanics has been used in school syllabus for decades, despite Einstein having proposed special relativity in 1905. However, some are wondering why pupils are still learning about Newtonian physics. The reason for this is that Newtonian mechanics provided the fundamentals to Einstein’s research. Hence, secondary school children are required to first learn about Newton’s Laws of motion and gravity before they start with relativity, in advanced classes or in university – a kind of “learn to walk before you can run” approach. But who decides what the general focus on physics should be in schools and in universities?
PER (physics education research) is a research sub-field in physics that focuses on the academic performance of students who study physics, and thus possibly alter the curricula/syllabus according to the strong and weak points of the average performance. They also consider what students already know, and how they tend to learn. To determine these aspects, assessment instruments are used. Tests such as FCI, Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation, and Test of Understanding Graphs in Kinematics are some examples of the assessments instruments they utilize.
Current research in physics education and tuition has been very useful and has described many problems related to thinking processes of novice students and experts. One example of what their research has discovered is that novices tend to see two problems in physics as very similar, such as an inclination problem, whereas experts easily notice the difference, where one requires a friction calculation and the next requires the application of energy theorems. Their research also extends to social aspects of physics students/pupils and the impacts of technology on learning.
It has been determined that the attitudes of the students towards traditional teaching have been negative in recent years. There is also evidence proving online media and interactive tutorials have received positive feedback from pupils and even teachers. Another interesting factor that impacts education is globalization. This has changed various aspects of education, which suggests that the traditional teaching methods are about to be phased out – leaving instructors concerned.
Globalization has caused the prominence of material on the internet to spread rapidly among students to substitute for standard in-class education. While traditional teachers may still use old techniques, this will soon come to an end. Students are no longer interested in plain “black and white” resources, but instead they prefer online videos and texts. Therefore it is evident that there is still constant research being conducted in physics, and in general, education; the need for new integrated teaching techniques is therefore an important one.