As far back as the late 1800s, U.S. physics teachers expressed many of the same ideas about physics education reform that are advocated today. However, several popular reform efforts eventually failed to have wide impact, despite strong and enthusiastic support within the physics education community. Broad-scale implementation of improved instructional models today may be just as elusive as it has been in the past, and for similar reasons. Although excellent instructional models exist and have been available for decades, effective and scalable plans for transforming practice on a national basis have yet to be developed and implemented. Present-day teachers, education researchers, and policy makers can find much to learn from past efforts, both in their successes and their failures. To this end, we present a brief outline of some key ideas in U.S. physics education during the past 130 years. We address three core questions that are prominent in the literature: (a) Why and how should physics be taught? (b) What physics should be taught? (c) To whom should physics be taught? Related issues include the role of the laboratory and attempts to make physics relevant to everyday life. We provide here only a brief summary of the issues and debates found in primary-source literature; an extensive collection of historical resources on physics education is available at https://sites.google.com/site/physicseducationhistory/home.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)