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Approach

Learning Physical Science (LPS) was based on work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and relies on the proven NSF-developmental process as well as contemporary research on how students learn. The curriculum is designed from both the constructivist and social-cultural theoretical perspectives and builds on a conceptual change framework.

Guided Inquiry Learning

Learning Physical Science is an inquiry-based program carefully designed and scaffolded to enable students to develop a deep understanding of physical science concepts in ways consistent with how science knowledge is developed in a scientific community and with an understanding of how people learn. The course is hierarchical, with both topics and skills developed in a structured progression. In addition to the physical science content focus, there is also a unique Learning about Learning component, which include activities designed to help students focus on the nature of science, on the learning processes of elementary school students, and on their own learning. Learning Physical Science (LPS) is designed for a large lecture-hall environment or a small-enrollment class with no mandatory lab component, yet is still inquiry based with an explicit focus on Learning about Learning and research-based learning principles.

Active Learning

In PET, PSET, and LPS, students construct meaningful understanding of physical science concepts through view movie viewing and discussion activities. The program employs a learning-centered pedagogy that consists of elicitation of initial student ideas, development of new or modified ideas (based on experimental or simulator evidence), building student consensus on final ideas, and the application of ideas to new situations. The lessons are designed to elicit and challenge students prior knowledge, and to provide evidentiary support that helps students decide, if appropriate, to change their ideas. In the classroom, students spend most of their time working in small groups, performing experiments and making sense of their observations, and then sharing ideas in whole-class discussions

Technology Enhanced Learning

Each lesson in Learning Physical Science includes one or more “clicker” questions that students answer with clickers. The questions are integrated with PowerPoint™ slides used for class presentations. Most lessons also include movies that provide the “evidence” essential to supporting the development of the course’s target ideas. These movies show experiments (demonstrations), computer simulations or (in Learning about Learning lessons) students talking about science. The movies are linked directly to the Microsoft PowerPoint™ presentations that have been compiled for each lesson. 

Total Support

Resources are available to help faculty implement Learning Physical Science in their classrooms and for staff-development leaders to implement workshops for practicing teachers. These resources include a DVD with a comprehensive text-and-video package that explains and illustrates the pedagogy behind the programs; the videos needed for activities; the files needed for software that interface with motion sensors or temperature probes; lists of equipment; handouts; and installers for the physics simulators. The Instructor Resources DVD is meant to be used in concert with the on-line Teacher Guide, which provides guidance for the actual implementation of each activity, along with activity and homework keys and other resources not available on the DVD. Introductory workshops are also offered at professional meetings.