Teaching and learning about Electromagnetism in high school: addressing issues of relevance and Epistemic practice
Constantinou, Constantinos P.
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Electromagnetism presents an interesting topic for teaching and learning of physics in high school. On the one hand, the corresponding phenomena are mostly outside the range of student experiences and relevance to every day life is not immediately identifiable for many. On the other hand, the topic offers a rich context for cultivating conceptual understanding of a progression of core scientific concepts such as interaction at a distance, force fields, mesoscopic structural models and induction. We have taken up these challenges with a view to explore the extent to which we could use epistemic practices in science and technology as an innovative approach to highlighting the relevance of electromagnetic phenomena and engaging students in a process of inquiry oriented teaching and learning. To achieve this, we have combined principles from the inquiry-oriented teaching and learning framework and learning through technological design in order to design a teaching learning sequence of activities that sustains student interest for the extended time that is necessary to attain conceptual understanding of these core ideas. We also aimed at fostering the development of learners’ epistemological awareness regarding the interconnection and distinction between science and technology. Trial implementations of the module were carried out with two upper secondary classes in a school setting, two groups of 15 to 17 year old students who participated in summer science camps and two cohorts of pre-service teachers. From each of these groups, we collected data in the form of three types of student artefacts (constructed magnetic levitation trains, posters and written reports) as well as pre- and post-test measurements of the learning outcomes. After each cycle of implementation, we used the collected data and the feedback from the teachers in an iterative process for the refinement of the module. In this chapter, we present the teaching learning sequence and we discuss the issue of relevance and the role of authenticity in exposing students to epistemic practices.