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Student-Centered, Inquiry-Based

There was a complete rethink by the College Board of how to teach science in general and algebra based AP Physics in particular.*

CB was clear in its aim “By limiting the scope of content in each of the courses, this framework gives teachers the time needed to foster greater depth of conceptual understanding through the use of student-centered, inquiry-based instructional practices. Teachers will also have time to cover the concepts and skills … This framework focuses on the big ideas … and provides students with enduring, conceptual understandings of foundational physics principles. This approach enables students to spend less time on mathematical routines and more time engaged in inquiry-based learning of essential concepts, and it will help them develop the critical thinking and reasoning skills necessary to engage in the science practices … Having a deep understanding of physics principles implies the ability to reason about physical phenomena using important science process skills …” Course description p. 13

It is clear from many reactions on the AP Physics EDB that many teachers were not familiar or comfortable with the dynamic of “student-centered, inquiry-based instructional practices.” There is a sense that inquiry-based instructional practices are ‘inefficient’. It does take more time to get ideas across to students if the teacher is guiding them to build their own conceptions rather than just telling them what to do. The students can get quite frustrated and there is always the temptation to ‘cut to the quick’ and save them from the painful job of having to think. I also found it quite difficult getting the pacing right helping students with their first real exposure to physics up to AP standard in one school year. However, I am totally convinced that taking more time to build enduring, conceptual understandings of foundational physics principles will help students develop the critical thinking and reasoning skills that will make not only make them better doctors, scientists and engineers but also make them more able to succeed in any academic and professional endeavor. It is this that makes me really love teaching physics



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