Welcome to the Fischer Working Group on Physics Education

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The Working Group

Welcome to the homepage of the Fischer Working Group on Physics Education at the University of Duisburg-Essen!  
 
The natural science of physics is integral to a well-rounded education. From an individual perspective, physics is important in providing us with a sense of orientation in the world and helping us to make sound decisions in modern society. From a societal perspective, physics is crucial as well given the increasing demand for people who can apply physics knowledge and practical skills to the design and use of ecological and industrial technologies.  
Everyone who has gone through a traditional school system, however, is well aware that it is no easy task acquiring a theoretical and practical understanding of physics in the classroom setting. A central focus of research in physics education is therefore to describe and explain learning processes that are specific to the subject of physics and shared by students from all levels and types of schools. This research also encompasses the study and optimization of teaching methods, and seeks to develop instruments for improving the quality of teaching and teacher training in physics education.  
 
The Fischer Working Group investigates the contexts and conditions under which classroom learning takes place, and studies the effects of teacher training on physics instruction at all school levels, drawing methodologies from the fields of psychology and educational science. A further focus of the group’s research, conducted in close cooperation with the disciplines of biology and chemistry, is the investigation of aspects of teaching and learning that are unique to these three natural sciences.

Research on physics instruction and methodology

n recent years, clear deficits have been identified in how the three natural sciences of biology, chemistry, and physics are taught in schools.   This deficit analysis has emerged from the perspective of interdisciplinary cooperation among natural science educationalists (in biology, chemistry, and physics) and is based on both empirical educational research and instructional research on the psychology of teaching and learning.   It has in turn given way to the setting of medium and long-term research goals.    
 
International comparative school attainment studies have brought to light problems in classroom teaching of the natural sciences that clearly reveal just how much still remains to be understood about designing classroom teaching to correspond with learning processes, taking into consideration the normative goals of the various consortia carrying out these studies (IGLU, PISA, TIMSS).   The research goals formulated are being pursued by the organizations working in this field: the Institute for Natural Science Teaching (IPN), the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (MPI), the German Research Foundation (DFG) Program for Educational Quality of Schools (BIQUA), the research group NWU-Essen and individual working groups on teaching methodology in the individual disciplines. Here, what is needed first and foremost is descriptively oriented research to better clarify the problems and their particular contexts.   At the same time, the knowledge gleaned through these studies needs to be applied in the context of concrete modes of intervention, and should be tested empirically as well.   A further goal is for individual groups to put this knowledge into practice in scientifically controlled settings.

Research Unit and Graduate School nwu - essen

The DFG Research Unit 511 and the Research Training Group "science education - essen” have been underway since October 1, 2003.   Bringing together the three natural sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics), empirical educational research, and the psychology of teaching and instruction, their interdisciplinary research examines central themes of natural science instruction – its mechanisms and its outcomes.   Their objective is to produce an overall assessment that can be used to identify the general conditions of natural science instruction that are shown to promote teaching quality, and to modify these conditions to achieve further improvements.  
The combination of disciplines facilitates the study of instructional contexts, individual processes of instruction and learning, and the systemic conditions under which natural science instruction takes place.