Institution(s): 1. The University of Western Australia
The early years of high school physics are focused on Newtonian physics with little mention of the fundamental conceptual breakthroughs made by Einstein and others in the 20th century that underlie our current description of reality, collectively referred to here as Einsteinian Physics.
Students’ conception of the Universe is still defined by Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation based on Euclidian-space. When Einsteinian Physics is eventually encountered, i.e. in university physics, astronomy and astrophysics classrooms, the contradictory concepts are difficult to understand intuitively.
The Einstein-First project is investigating methods and strategies for incorporating Einsteinian Physics into the curriculum at a stage where it would comprise students’ first exposure to physics. Concepts fundamental to the modern paradigm such as curved space, warped time, photons and the uncertainty principle are introduced as the primary conceptualization of reality. From these foundations students can make the transition to the Euclidean-Newtonian model, which remains useful for many practical applications.
Course programs consist of conceptual content and simple analogy-based activities, which have been developed to bring the relevant topics to life. The course also utilizes astrophysical observations to provide concrete examples of Einsteinian Physics in the Universe. Our telescope facilitates first-hand observations of these phenomena
The efficacy of these programs has been investigated in multiple pilot studies by administering carefully designed tests, both before the program and after, to students of various levels of ability. Early results have been encouraging.
This talk will present an overview of the Einstein-First program, including videos and demonstrations of course content and activities, as well as pilot study results, which suggest it is possible to present this material in a way that students, irrespective of ability and background, are appropriately introduced to our best scientific understanding of the Universe, the world of Einsteinian Physics.