Interactions In Physical Science
Fred Goldberg and Sharon Bendall
Interactions in Physical Science , is a one-year physical science course for middle school students. The primary developers of the curriculum had three main goals in mind: to provide a substantive and coherent physical science course based on both national and state standards; to base the curriculum on a pedagogy guided by recent research on how students learn; and to prepare students for success in their high school science and math courses which would enable them to become scientifically literate citizens. Interactions went through extensive pilot and national field-testing over five years before it was published in its final form in 2006.
InterActions is hierarchical, with topics and skills developed in a structured progression organized around important science themes: interactions, conservation of energy and mass, Newton's Laws, and Atomic Molecular Theory (small particle theory).
As the curriculum progresses, students work to complete wall maps about interactions and energy.
The pedagogy of InterActions is based on guided inquiry, with direct instruction occasionally used to extend the ideas covered. Specific activities are designed to help meet specific learning goals; these are generally particular ideas or sub-ideas included in both national and state standards. Activities are designed and structured around the following general learning principles derived from research on learning:
- Students build new knowledge based on what they already know
- Complex ideas need to be developed over time with appropriate scaffolding
- Student learning is mediated through social interaction
- Students need to practice norms both of science and learning communities: good ideas are based on evidence and involve consensus; and students have respect for others' ideas and take responsibility for their own learning
The curriculum is divided into units and chapters, each chapter consisting of a series of five types of activities based on a learning-cycle approach aimed at developing a set of important ideas.
The most common type of activity is Developing Our Ideas . In these activities students share initial ideas, perform hands-on experiments and/or simulation explorations to gather evidence to test their initial ideas, respond to a series of making sense questions to help them connect their developing ideas with their evidence, and then reach a class consensus.
Much of the Interactions pedagogy involves students working in small groups. The curriculum provides extensive scaffolding in helping students develop skills at participating in-group discussions, following directions, playing productive roles when the group is performing experiments, and monitoring their own thinking. Special posters and prompts within the texts explicitly address these skills.
Experience and research indicate the critical importance of helping teachers understand pedagogy and content development that may be different from their prior experiences. InterActions addresses this by providing a three-volume Teacher Guide, a comprehensive online resource with many videos of experiments and good implementations, and an extensive professional development program of workshops and online tutorials. The workshop series consists of seven workshop days over an academic year. In the workshops, teachers do activities from the curriculum and learn how to implement the InterActions pedagogy through a series of special activities focusing on understanding both how students learn and the teacher's role in promoting that learning. For further information about the Interactions curriculum, other supporting materials for students (a science fiction reader, a board game, and an engaging website), and the professional development materials, visit http://www.interactionsinfo.net/.
During the development of Interactions, two student impact evaluations were conducted. In a 2001 comparison study involving classes using an early version of InterActions and control classes (about 2200 students total), the InterActions students did statistically better on multiple choice questions and on open response questions on science and nature of science content. In 2004, a Force and Motion content assessment was administered to about 1900 students in 9 th grade classes, where about half the students had used Interactions the previous year and half the students had used other physical science curricula. Students who had InterActions in 8th grade did significantly better on the assessment than students who did not.
Interactions was developed for middle school students. Another project that was inspired both conceptually and pedagogically by Interactions was Physics and Everyday Thinking (PET) and Physical Science and Everyday Thinking (PSET) . These two curricula were also developed with NSF support and are being published by It's About Time. Each is intended to be a one-semester course (75-hours of classroom instruction), appropriate for prospective and practicing elementary and middle school teachers, as well as for college-level students needing a general education physical science course. The PET course content focuses on the themes of interactions, conservation of energy and Newton's Laws. The PSET course, which includes both physics and chemistry, focuses on the same themes plus atomic-molecular theory. Specially designed computer simulators are used extensively in both curricula during class and as part of web-based homework.
Each curriculum uses a guided inquiry pedagogy similar to that used in Interactions , and is based on the same learning principles. However, unlike Interactions , both PET and PSET also include a series of Learning About Learning activities, in which students are asked to reflect on their own learning, the learning of young children (using videos from classrooms where students are discussing physics and chemistry ideas), or the learning of scientists (the history and nature of science). Substantive on-line teacher guides and separate teacher resources CDs provide information to help faculty implement PET and PSET. A supplementary text also includes material that teachers could use in elementary classrooms . The results of pre/post conceptual tests during field-testing of both PET and PSET show significant growth in students' understanding of the physical science content. For further information about PET or PSET, visit http://petproject.sdsu.edu/ or http://psetproject.sdsu.edu/.
The development of Interactions in Physical Science was supported by National Science Foundation grants ESI-9812299 and ESI-0138900.
Published by It's About Time, Herff Jones Education Division. See http://www.its-about-time.com . Early field test versions of the curriculum were called Constructing Ideas in Physical Science , or CIPS.
Fred Goldberg and Sharon Bendall, San Diego State University, Patricia Heller, University of Minnesota, and Robert Poel, Western Michigan University.
Topics included in state standards but not national standards are typically addressed through activities that include more direct instruction.
PET was developed by Fred Goldberg, San Diego State University, Steve Robinson, Tennessee Technological University, and Valerie Otero, University of Colorado-Boulder. PSET was developed by Goldberg, Robinson and Otero, as well as Rebecca Kruse, Southeastern Louisiana State University, and Nephi Thompson, San Diego State University.
Elementary Science and Everyday Thinking (ESET) consists of a set of activities and associated teacher guides covering several different topical areas in physical science. Many of the activities are similar to the ones that are included in the movies the PET and PSET students view as part of their Learning about Learning activities. ESET is also published by It's About Time.
Fred Goldberg, Professor of Physics, and Sharon Bendall are both at San Diego State University and members of the Center for Research in Math and Science Education. Goldberg was the PI and Bendall a co-PI on the project that developed the Interactions curriculum. Goldberg was also PI of the project that developed PET and PSET.