High School Physics: An Interactive Instructional Approach That Meets the Next Generation Science Standards

By Huang, Shaobo; Becker, Kurt et al. | Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research, January-April 2015 | Go to article overview

High School Physics: An Interactive Instructional Approach That Meets the Next Generation Science Standards


Huang, Shaobo, Becker, Kurt, Mejia, Joel Alejandro, Neilson, Drew, Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research


Improving high school physics teaching and learning is important to the long-term success of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Increasing our national STEM literacy and workforce readiness includes intensifying and diversifying student participation in STEM learning experiences. Efforts are currently in place to develop an understanding of science among high school students through formal and informal educational experiences in engineering design activities emphasizing the science and engineering practices included in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) framework (NGSS Lead States, 2013).

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) framework has indicated the importance of the engineering design process in K-12 education. The framework was developed in an effort to produce K-12 science standards rich in content and practice and coherent across disciplines (NGSS Lead States, 2013). These standards have been divided into different areas and by disciplinary core ideas. One of the core ideas for grades 9-12 indicates that students should be able to "plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that an electric current can produce a magnetic field and that changing a magnetic field can produce an electric current" (NGSS Lead States, 2013, p. 253). Furthermore, the NGSS (2013) indicates that engineering must be a fundamental part of the new framework since students are required to develop the capability to carry and transfer knowledge across science disciplines through modeling, planning, conducting investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, and constructing explanations to demonstrate understanding of the science core ideas. Students must be able to "apply scientific ideas to solve a design problem, taking into account possible unanticipated effects."(NGSS Lead States, 2013, p. 254). The NGSS, along with the Technology and Engineering Literacy Framework for the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress, recommend the integration of engineering and science in K-12 education. The integration and implementation of engineering design activities to the K-12 curriculum has shown that it provides a venue for students to learn relevant STEM content (Hmelo, Holton & Kolodner, 2000; Householder & Hailey, 2012; Schunn, 2008). Moreover, experimental studies have shown that students become more motivated or engaged when they relate a STEM concept/principle to a real world problem (Adams et al., 2008). It is through engineering design that students are able to see the applicability of abstract and somewhat intangible concepts. In addition, students are able to make connections across disciplines and provide improved solutions to specific problems. Students are able to recognize that certain criteria need to be prioritized, distinguish the range of criteria and constrains, and test the validity of their solutions by comparing to the real world (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Learning difficult concepts while working toward an objective (i.e. solving the engineering design problem) allows students to see how possible solutions can be tackled with engineering methods.

This article investigates physics learning and teaching research and the use of engineering design in the teaching of physics. By integrating engineering into STEM, students may apply scientific ideas to solving an engineering design problem while carrying and transferring knowledge in core science areas.

The Predicament of High School Physics

High school physics, which "marks the final stage of high school science"(Sadler & Tai, 2000, p.111), is a useful preparation for students who plan to pursue college science and engineering because it introduces fundamental concepts such as force and motion, thermodynamics, fluids, and electric circuits (Sadler & Tai, 2000; Tyson, Lee, Borman, & Hanson, 2007). It is suggested that students should master "sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on science related issues"because science and engineering"permeate every aspect of modern life" (National Research Council, 2011, p. …

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