• Author
    • #15892
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      A comment on where the mapping project is going:

      At this week’s curriculum mapping workshop, we looked at a possible approach to linking physics statements. Something like this:

      Statement 1: Observation(s) of something in the real world that you want to explain.

      Link 1: Describe the phenomenon in Physics terms.

      Statement 2: Physics-based statement(s) related to Statement 1.

      Link 2: Define/create new concepts which will help you to explain the phenomenon.

      Statement 3: Physics concepts / definitions to add to Statement 2.

      Link 3: Vary one or more factors, measure consequences.

      Statement 4: Outcomes of the above, eg proportionality.

      Link 4: Combine to form a more general theory.

      Statement 5: The general theory, perhaps as an equation.

      I like this model in general. In teaching Physics, we are guiding students along the links. A lot of what teachers do is concerned with Link 2, helping students to get to grips with concepts. It’s no good simply defining energy or momentum, you have to do lots of activities so that students get a feel for them. (Unfortunately, because assessment focuses mostly on Statements of types 3 and 5, teachers often feel that it is easier to make assertions rather than developing understanding.)

      I think there is a problem with this model as a basis for a map. I think the aim is to map the whole of Physics (11-19) and then to add teaching considerations. I’m not sure how possible this will be.

      Consider links 1 and 2. In Link 1, we are bringing in Physics ideas which are already established, i.e. which are elsewhere on the map. In Link 2, we are adding extra concepts which are needed to understand the phenomenon of interest. When we have all the concepts we need, we can move on from Statement 3. However, it follows that Links 1 and 2 both depend on previously-established ideas. These will depend on the route an individual has already followed through the map of Physics. There are lots of routes to reach Newton’s Second Law (a Statement 5-type idea). Do you already know about acceleration? Momentum? Vectors? Newton’s Third Law? and so on.

      A map represents a landscape. There are many routes through a map. The best route for an individual depends on what they have experienced earlier on their journey – what knowledge and skills do they bring with them?

      My feeling is that, by atomising Physics, we are going to end up with a very detailed map with hundreds of theoretical routes through it but which doesn’t draw on teachers’ experience of teaching Physics.

      It might make more sense to identify some larger chunks of Physics that are coherent parts of the subject and to work with these, building links informed by teaching, and offering a few alternative approaches.

      The process we have been going through has been useful to open up ideas, but I feel that a database full of thousands of micro-statements, each carrying multiple meta-tags, will may end up being a confusing labyrinth rather than an illuminating tool.

      We need to spend more time considering the end-users.

    • #15893
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand


      I think the aim is to map the whole of Physics (11-19) and then to add teaching considerations.

      Did anyone ever actually say we weren’t dealing with ages below 11 ?

      I think a lot of the statement 1 and 2 comments at the very least begin to form there as well as a lot of jumping to 5. I know lots of five year olds who are already rabbitting on about there being ‘no gravity in space’ for instance and more creepily start getting confused by seeing the moo. There seems to be some work at Sheffield about trying to get the physics taught properly in primary schools (Prof Gillian Gehring seems to be in charge of that, I think) and that would be worth at least a look.

      As for the atomising, I tend to agree. As it stands, an output from this system will look eerily like a current A Level specification, a set of terms that needs to be covered. Perhaps there need to be groupings, little bubbles around the statements, a bit like the ones they already came in (particle theory, currents, waves etc.) but of varying size, purpose etc. and with the ability to overlap. These bubbles might themselves have connectors between them, I suppose, showing some larger scale structure of the whole thing (eg how kinematics and statics combine to produce dynamics).

      Is there any mileage in that?


    • #15894
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      David. Yes, I’m still uneasy. But I’m not sure it is for the same reason as you. If we just had big statements, then they would, inevitably, be open to interpretation and we would be wanting to define them more tightly (with lots of depends and ifs). So we might end up with the atoms anyway. For example, if you tale Newton’s second law as a big idea, then it breaks down quite a lot. So I think this is where the generalise/specilise arrows come in.

      In some sense, I see pillars of a big idea (say N@; or even the concept of force) growing upwards. And, as you ascend a helical route, you pass through points on the towers and build your understanding/conception of that idea.

      So, for N2, you can grasp at an early stage that a force will change the motion of something. But you are still a long way from grasping how force affects acceleration. So, big ideas is good. But there is structure within those ideas and the map has to link to that structure rather than to the bubble of the idea.

      It may be that we haven’t got the structure quite right rather than we shouldn’t have structure at all.

      BTW, it is worth looking at the project 2061 maps. For me, they are *too* general.




    • #15895
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

    • #15896
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

    • #15897
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      I can’t help thinking that we are all still being driven by the idea of developing understanding and teaching topics in physics. Although our links are meant to run both ways – from real world ideas through to physics concept and vice versa, our thinking has very much been one way.

      There is a (perfectly valid?) sense in which for, say kinematics, v=dx/dt and a=dv/dt with a,v,x vectors is the physics of the situation. If we start from there we could ask questions such as “What is a reasonable apporximation to this for those currently unaware of calculus?”, “What are some examples to help people ground this in a more concrete reality?” or “If we add further assumptions (e.g. constant a) what simplifications follow?”.

      For some people, the ‘final equation’ is the starting point. For others it is the summit we are aiming for and, as a teacher we can look down from there and ask how best to guide students to it. But some teachers will not be at that summit themselves – or not be aware of all the routes – so might prefer a top-down approach.

      It may well be possible to incorporate this view into the current map, by emphasising the two-way nature of the process.

    • #15898
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      In response to Charles: Thanks. I agree that the 2061 maps are too broad to be much help. I don’t think I want to abolish the atomistic statements (although I did think we were in danger of breaking some down into quarks and leptons), but I do think it would be useful to bind some together to form molecules which we treat as entities because they are most likely to be dealt with at the same point in teaching. If the atoms are a few daltons, the molecules might be hundreds of daltons (sugar, not starch).

    • #15899
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Re: ages the curriculum is aimed at, I think we should ignore this. The curriculum should start from the ‘everyday’ ideas and finish at the point were the university curriculum starts.

      If we were teaching adults we would not consider the age (you can’t do this until you’re 25, 40,60?) The main reason for grouping children by age is to organise their education at school – they will tend to be ready for concepts at a similar age and this is strongly reinforced, once they start school, by being in the same class so their experiences in school are the same.  However, a child that moves school is often way ahead or way behind – which tells us that a lot of their current understanding is just due to their school experience. Some students could go much faster and some would benefit by taking things more slowly. 

      I don’t think this is relevant to the order they meet concepts, or the different routes through – which is what I think we should concentrate on.  (And I hope this post doesn’t come out blank ….)

    • #15900
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Ys, it would be good if the map was useful to primary teachers, home educators etc, but I don’t know enough about teaching pre-secondary. 

    • #15901
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      OK, two thoughts spring to mind here

      First of all, the ‘black box’ concept used in object oriented programming (ie, the good kind) We might well end up with big ‘molecules’ that link to other ‘molecules’ in big concept ways, but allow the small detail fiddling within the ‘molecule’ completely unimpaired.


      For instance, in C++ there is no complex number concept built in. It doesn’t matter from the outside if a routine calculates using an (x,iy) concept, or an (r, Embarassed) concept where Embarassed=theta. So from outside the ‘black box’ of say Newton’s 2nd law, it doesn’t matter how we arrange our momentums and our ma statements, they link to say, magnetism, in exactly the same way.


      Secondly, we keep driving towards the final goals being the physical theories because we are all physicists.


You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?

Create Account