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6-11 Nov 2000 - CERN


Throughout the festival, participants met in small groups to discuss various themes close to the heart of physics education. Physics On Stage provided a unique opportunity for the opinions of everyone in the field to be heard. Over 500 experts on physics teaching and popularisation took part in the workshops; including physics teachers, university lecturers and researchers, experts on curriculum development, science communicators, scientific and educational journalists, representatives of ministries and European organisations. Their experiences, opinions and suggestions were combined to form a valid and representative expression of the will of the European physical science community.

The topics of the workshops were suggested in advance of the festival week and questions were posed to initiate the discussions. These questions, along with short summaries of the discussions and recommendations from each workshop, will be presented here soon, as well as full reports from each workshop and the explanations for the recommendations. These are also published in a separate document, available from Helen Wilson, Executive Co-ordinator for Physics On Stage, ESTEC (ADM-RE), European Space Agency, Keplerlaan 1, 2200 AG Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

On the final day of the festival, participants voted on the recommendations, choosing one from each workshop that they believed to be the most important. The recommendations with the highest number of votes will be presented here soon.

Workshops list:

  1. Mapping the Crisis
  2. Physics in Primary Education
  3. Physics in Secondary Education
  4. Physics and Public Understanding
  5. Role of History & Philosophy in Physics Education
  6. Consideration of the Major Issues of Today
  7. Women and Physics
  8. Physics and Toys (Games)
  9. The Place of the Internet in Physics Education
  10. New Tools in the Classroom
  11. ESO, CERN, ESA, and EU
  12. Focus on Teachers
  13. The Economy of Physics Education
  14. Curriculum Developments

Standard Presentation Material will be available in each Workshop.


1 - Mapping the Crisis

Chair: Wubbo Ockels (ISC)

  • Is there a crisis in physics education?
  • Is there a shortage of students wishing to study physics?
  • What are the causes?
  • What has EUPEN and other research revealed?
  • National contributions to the debate.


2 – Physics in Primary Education

Chair: Rosemary Feasy (United Kingdom)

  • At what age should some form of science education begin? (some nations: age 5, others: age 12)
  • What knowledge do we have from psychology about the benefits of teaching science at certain ages?
  • Should some science education be compulsory in a National Curriculum?
  • What kind of physics should be taught? (conceptual or quantitative? practical or theoretical?)
  • What level of mathematics is appropriate at this level?
  • What skills should be acquired at this stage?
  • Is assessment and examination necessary at this level?
  • Comparisons of different national experiences.


3 – Physics in Secondary Education

Chair: Marie Louise Zimmerman - Asta (Switzerland) (assisted by François Mireval, Switzerland) and Jean Collins (United Kingdom)

  • Should physics be a compulsory component of every National Curriculum?
  • Should there be a distinction between syllabuses
    • for future physics / engineering students?
    • for future lawyers, politicians, commercial managers?
    • for future technicians?
    • for future citizens?
  • What level of mathematics is necessary at this stage?
  • Should syllabuses be conceptual rather than quantitative?
  • What part should be played by experimental work? (Is experiment an essential basis for theoretical knowledge?)
  • Comparison of different national experiences.
  • Should physics syllabuses deal only with tangible physics (e.g. mechanics, heat, light, magnetism, electricity) or include more recent physics (e.g. quantum mechanics, relativity)?
  • What form should assessment take? (Are examinations necessary?)
  • What part should project work play in the curriculum?
  • What is the place of applied physics in physics education?
  • What skills should be acquired during a physics course?
  • How should physics courses be related to other subjects (e.g. biology, medicine, environmental science, chemistry)?


4 – Physics and Public Understanding

Chair: Katarina Teplanova (Slovak Republic)

  • Do current syllabuses contribute to the public understanding of physics?
  • How can the public understanding of physics be promoted in future?
  • To what extent do current syllabuses contribute to scientific literacy?
  • What attention should be given to ‘pseudo-science’ (e.g. astrology)
  • How can we address the perception among the public that physics is:
    • too complicated for them to understand?
    • a waste of money?
  • How can we address the confusion between science and science fiction propagated by the media, Hollywood, etc..?


5 – Role of History & Philosophy in Physics Education

Chair: Anne Brumfitt (The Netherlands) and Nicholas Witkowski (France)

  • How should physics education address the belief that science is either right or wrong? (How can we emphasise the uncertainties?)
  • What part should the history of physics play in physics education?
  • Should moral responsibilities be considered as part of physics education?


6 – Consideration of the Major Issues of Today

Chair: Adam Kovach (Hungary)

  • Should physics education inform students about today’s major issues (e.g. bioengineering, environmental concerns, natural disasters, energy resources, sustainability, nuclear radiation)?

7 – Women and Physics

Chair: Cecilia Jarlskorg (CERN)

  • What are the statistics? (national contributions)
  • What can be done to even out the gender imbalance in certain countries?
  • Why do women chose other science subjects (e.g. biology) over physics?
  • Comparison of experiences in different countries.


8 – Physics and Toys (Games)

Chair: Hubert Biezeveld (Netherlands) and Rafael Garcia Molina (Spain)

  • What role does ‘play’ have in learning physics?
  • What kind of toys illustrate physical principles?
  • How can physics be made fun?
  • Comparison of different experiences.


9 – The Place of the Internet in Physics Education

Chair: Robert Cailliau (CERN)

  • How can schools benefit from the information available over the internet?
  • How can the internet be used to promote communication?
  • What organisation is necessary?
  • Are present facilities satisfactory?


10 – New Tools in the Classroom

Chair: Richard Hammond (United Kingdom) and David Nixon (United Kingdom)

  • How can new technology be used to improve physics education?
  • What benefits can computers and CD-ROMs bring to lessons? projects? demonstrations?


11 – ESO, CERN, ESA, and EU

Chair: Claus Madsen (ESO) and Clovis de Matos (ESA)

  • What contribution could / should such organisations make to physics education?
  • At what levels should contributions be made?
  • What proposals are there for the long term?
  • Is there a role for such agencies in a European network?
  • ‘Life in the Universe’ – a project for 2001


12 – Focus on Teachers

Chair: Brenda Jennison (United Kingdom) and Rosa Maria Ros (Spain)

  • National statistics on the supply of teachers
  • What is the condition of the job market?
  • What is the social status of teachers? Is this acceptable?
  • How do teachers’ salaries vary across Europe? Should there be changes in salary structures?
  • Do we need more collaboration across Europe regarding physics education? Should there be a European physics curriculum?
  • Innovative experiences in certain countries.


13 – Curriculum Developments

Chair: Fernand Wagner (EAAE)

  • Comparison of new curriculum projects.
  • Exchanging ideas: sharing and adapting.
  • What organisation is necessary to ensure that good ideas are widely used?
  • Traditional vs. ‘new’ physics.
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