Design of a prototype for teaching general relativity to upper secondary students

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    Together with quantum physics, general relativity is one of the major modern theories in contemporary physics. General relativity is not part of the standard upper secondary school physics curriculum in the Netherlands. The goal of our design based research project, is to develop and evaluate curriculum materials on general relativity for upper secondary physics classes, with the research question: What does a design of a prototype for teaching general relativity to upper secondary students in the Netherlands look like? The design of the materials is based on a set of design principles. These design principles in turn, are based on a literature study, a cursory textbook analysis and three expert rounds with didactical and content knowledge experts. From the literature study and textbook analysis it became apparent that it is possible to teach general relativity at secondary or even primary level [1]. The explanations have to be specifically aimed at the students’ skill and comprehension levels [2]. The use of visuals, like graphics, images and animations, increases student engagement and can lead to enhanced learning results. The use of models and visualization techniques can further aid in helping students wrap their heads around the various abstract concepts [3]. Four key concepts of general relativity were proposed based on similar key concepts identified by other authors [4]. These are 1) The principle of equivalence; 2) The principle of relativity; 3) Geodesics and 4) Spacetime and curvature During two expert rounds, the design principles and the ultimate design itself have been improved and validated. Based on the literature review and the expert rounds, the following design principles have been formulated: The module 1) contains appealing contexts, 2) is close to the level of mathematics that can be expected of an upper secondary student, 3) is presented in an age appropriate way, 4) is visually supported, 5) contains hands-on experiences, 6) enables students to study the materials independently from the teacher, 7) is embedded within the current physics curriculum, 8) is appealing and encourages students to read and study the curriculum materials and 9) is structured in a consistent and coherent way. References [1] Pitts, M., Venville, G., Blair, D., & Zadnik, M., Research in Science Education 44 (3), 363-388 (2014) [2] Haddad, W. D., & Pella, M. O., The Journal of Experimental Education 41 (1), 22-32 (1972) [3] Hartle, J. B., American Journal of Physics 74 (1), 14-21 (2005)
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2019
    EventWE-Heraeus-Seminar: General Relativity as a Challenge for Physics Education - Physikzentrum Bad Honnef, Bad Honnef, Germany
    Duration: 10 Feb 201915 Feb 2019
    Conference number: 690


    CityBad Honnef
    Internet address

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