Changing the way physics is taught

8 August 2012

It can be very tricky trying to teach physics without putting theory into practice.

Unfortunately, many African schools have to rely purely on theory due to how expensive experimental kit can be. This means that physics is generally rote learnt, with writing on the board, copied definitions, chanting, and the questions “Are we together?” or “Isn’t it?” (to which the answer is always, “Yes” regardless of understanding). Regurgitations of the learnt word ensures success in exams.

Joe Brock, our international coordinator for Tanzania, gives us an insight into how providing essential kit and teacher training has helped over the past year.

Joe Brock:

Joe Brock

This year we have taught 17 different schools and 53 teachers. The Tanzania project has in the last four years, taught 45 schools in the Morogoro municipality, (just about all of them) and another 6 schools from Mvomero. 

The IOP is committed to providing Tanzanian teachers with enough kit to at least start them off on the road to learning how to teach Physics in a practical way. 

There is also a specific focus on changing the mind-set of thinking that only expensive equipment can be used to demonstrate physics concepts or indeed the misconception that there must be a source of electricity to do this. 

This means that electricity can be taught under a tree if necessary. There is no need for batteries. It can even be taught with a wind up torch.

The main development for this year is that in addition to taking 35 Science Kits (80 experiments are possible from the £40 package) we took out 25 Electricity kits (£20 each) and 1 training manual.

Next year term starts a week early for the second year Physics trainee teachers at the Teachers’ College Morogoro. Each student can then take the kit with them when they are assigned to their first teaching post anywhere in Tanzania. 

We hope to make better links with Mzumbe University to train teachers there for next year. 

Our ultimate aim is to change the way physics is taught so that students are able to understand the world around them and apply what they know to new situations.

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