COMMENTS ON CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT
IN PHYSICS EDUCATION
( P. L. Lijnse)

Paul J. Black
King's College London, U. K.
 

This survey of curriculum development raises for me three main issues . One is an expansion of a point discussed briefly in section 2.3 concerning 'integrated science'. There have been important developments in several countries aimed at teaching the sciences in some co-ordinated or combined way. For some, this is ideological - they believe the separate sciences to be an anachronism and that there is only one single science. Others, including myself, disagree with this, but nevertheless feel that the sciences should be taught within a closely co-ordinated pattern - so that, for example, pupils are not taught about energy in three different ways between physics, chemistry and biology lessons. Others who are constructing their curriculum around issues or themes, point out that some of the most interesting issues cut across the inter-science boundaries. In all of these debates, physics educators ought to develop a clearer stance about how they see the specific role of physics - and I do not see this being done at present.

My second issue links to the first but is a broader problem which is touched upon at several points in the chapter. The pupil's interests, daily life outside school, concerns about his or her future, are all centrally important if a curriculum is to be matched to the pupil. To be sure, there is discussion about matching to cognitive development, but this means that the pupil is treated only as a 'brain on legs'. In all aspects of education, including physics, we have to give more emphasis to the rapid changes in society which affect the life of our pupils whatever we do in schools. A notable example is that some now spend more time in front of the TV than in school classrooms - the media enrich their passive reception of information, but impoverish their experience of practical action and their development of human relationships. What does this imply for the role of schooling ? Similarly, concerns about the environment, or about changes in the patterns of employment are often far more important to young people than to their teachers - how should the curriculum respond.

This leads to my third issue - for the life of young people is changing rapidly and will continue to change. Here, the quotation at the end of section 2 from Freudenthal is very appropriate. However, I would like the idea to be thought out in a more positive way. As society changes, education must change to respond. The task is to continually review to try to ensure that the curriculum best serves the needs of young people and is optimally attuned to their outlook - even if it should aim to change or expand that outlook. How can we bear such continual change - given that it is very hard for any teachers to change the topics, let alone the pedagogical methods, with which they have built up familiarity and confidence. A strategy for promoting and supporting teacher change may be at the heart of our needs - much of the argument near the end of this chapter suggests or requires this, but the issue has to be brought out more boldly.
 

**********************************
 

Section E, Comments on E1  from: Connecting Research in Physics Education
with Teacher Education
An I.C.P.E. Book © International Commission on Physics Education 1997,1998
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions

Return to the Table of Contents