Professionalising Physics Teachers in Doing Experimental Work

  • Claudia Haagen-Schützenhöfer University of Graz, Institue of Physics
  • Birgit Joham
Keywords: experiments in science teaching, continuous professional development course, Inquiry-Based Learning


It is commonly agreed that experiments play a central role in teaching and learning physics. Recently, Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) has been introduced into science teaching in many countries, thus giving another boost
for experiments. From a didactical point of view, experiments can serve a number of different goals in teaching and learning physics. First of all, experiments can support learners in understanding some of the central
concepts of physics. Besides this function of “learning physics”, empirical evidence shows that experimental work in general has a high potential for promoting “learning about science” and finally “doing science”. Promoting aspects of how science works has become important, as the ideas of scientific literacy and competence orientation have been established as central educational goals in many national education systems. However, empirical studies show that the reality in schools does not match these expectations. Conventional physics classes still aim only at the mastery of content, and experiments that cognitively activate students and address issues related to the Nature of Science (NOS) have not been implemented extensively. The reasons for this can be found in teachers’ attitudes and beliefs, as well as in their PCK concerning experiments and scientific knowledge production. In past decades in Austria, teacher education did not focus a great deal on the didactical aspects of experiments or their integration into physics classes in order to promote aspects of scientific literacy and competence orientation. Furthermore, there is a lack of high quality continuing professional development courses that promote the concepts of Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) in combination with relevant ideas of NOS. The present study examines inservice teachers’ beliefs about the function of experiments in science teaching and their meaningful integration into science classes. In the form of case studies, we follow the professional development of teachers in this field during continuing teacher training. 


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