In the last century science has given us knowledge of the tiniest things in the universe and vast distances to the edge of the visible universe, and with it, the modern technologies on which our lives depend. Einstein- First’s goal is to modernize school science with the aim that all students by year 10, should have a basic understanding of the science behind modern technology, and the universe from its tiniest components like atoms, to vast structures like our Milky Way galaxy.
To allow children to understand the scales of the universe from atoms and galaxies, we need to rethink mathematics education. Understanding the main concepts of Einsteinian Physics requires the development of students’ mathematical concepts in three important ways a) understanding of the vast range of scales of the universe, which necessitates the development of logarithmical thinking b) the development of probabilistic thinking and c) the development of vector understanding. These skills also have importance for understanding the financial world, global issues such as environmental problems, gambling and risks, and skills such as drone navigation.
The main aim of my PhD project is to test an activity-based mathematics curriculum corresponding to the above three listed areas, but here given more child-friendly names: huge and tiny (powers of ten), maths of arrows (graphical vectors), and maths of chance (probability) for primary and secondary school.
This research proposal is a part of the Einstein-First project directed by David Blair (University of Western Australia). The main goal of this PhD research is to integrate Einsteinian physics in the Western Australian curriculum in Years 7 and 8. The research is designed to (1) trial a progression of learning of Einsteinian concepts within an overall curriculum structure in which most aspects of modern and classical physics are taught within the Einsteinian paradigm, (2) organize teaching materials of Einsteinian Physics concepts into the existing curriculum, 3) identify the primary challenges in design and implementation which will help organize appropriate teacher professional learning to understand and teach Einsteinian physics concepts and (4) obtain quantitative and qualitative data to measure the research outcomes.
The current compulsory Australian physical science curriculum is outdated. Concepts that were discovered over 100 years ago are not explicitly included. Students now have unprecedented access to information about the world they live in and are increasingly aware about the gap between what they are taught in school, and what they can learn in their own time. The Australian physical science curriculum needs to be modernized.
The year 9 module will complement and build upon the quantum concepts that are already introduced in the Einstein-First year 3 and year 5 modules. Concepts proposed to be introduced include (but are not limited to) photons, waves, orbitals and phasors. These concepts will be introduced primarily through methods that have already been established by Einstein-First, such as activity-based learning, toy models and analogies. This project will extend upon previous work, and will develop a modernised year 9 physical sciences curriculum, along with relevant teacher professional development.
The modernised curriculum module will be evaluated through teacher interviews, student pre- and post- tests and feedback through each step of the development, trial and implementation. A physical science curriculum for this year level and on this scale and context has not been done before and will pave the way for a modernised Australian physical sciences curriculum.