Design and development of a module about Optical properties of materials
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The University of Naples has created a Local Working Group as a partnership of university researchers and school teachers. This group has developed and implemented a research-based teaching/learning Module on the topic of Optical Properties of Materials. The broader aim of this effort was to propose an innovation in Science and Technology curricula in the interdisciplinary context of Materials Science. To achieve this, we adopted the Educational Reconstruction theoretical framework, according to a design – trial – redesign cycle: the Group first carried out a content structure analysis, including relevant results from Physics Education Research, then proceeded with a trial implementation of the initial design, in order to gather data to evaluate the module and further refine its design. Through this effort we explicitly aimed at promoting students’ conceptual understanding through inquiry-oriented activities but also at enhancing their interest in further study of science and technology. The resulting activity sequence is structured in a few self-consistent Teaching-Learning Units, each proposing a problematic/motivating situation related to optical fibres as a chosen example of a technology-embedded scenario. The designed activities follow a Guided Inquiry Approach, focusing both on basic physics concepts and on the materials’ properties relevant for modelling/interpreting the fibres’ behaviours. The students are engaged in integrated lab-work and ICT activities to gain knowledge useful for managing with the driving questions of the “scenario”. In this paper, we describe the initial design and development of the Module’s construction and illustrate how these efforts have been informed by the results of the pilot implementations. The findings of this study support the crucial role, on one hand, played by the iterative design about key ideas related to science and technology aspects and, on the other hand, of the partnership between developers and teachers. Both these components have emerged as essential ingredients that affect the process of development and revision of effective research based curriculum materials.