Gareth Jones (ICL)

Thinking like a Physicist about Physics Education

Abstract: Research in fundamental physics is about investigating and discovering new knowledge about the physical universe and thereby developing a deeper understanding based on constituents, forces, processes, structures and theories including developing and testing fundamental laws and principles. Physics Education is about how we learn and teach what is known about the physical universe and how we can understand and use this knowledge so that students become professional physicists themselves able to apply physics methods both experimental and theoretical. It is also about acquiring skills, competences and ways of thinking and doing. Crucially, it leads to methods for analysing situations and solving problems, practical and intellectual, based on using fundamental laws and principles. Education is a process of change in the brain involving information flows, cognition, memory and response. Thus, Physics Research and Physics Education are closely linked and mutually dependent on each other. This session will try to explore how we can advance our understanding of what happens in the brain when we learn physics and thereby how we can improve our educational methods using this understanding. The major difficulty in implementing this is that processes in the brain are incredibly complicated and poorly understood; they are investigated in neuroscience, a vast and rapidly growing field of science. An approach based on “Systems Thinking” will be explored. This is a very widely applicable technique which has for many years been used by experimental particle physicists (especially in developing simulations and in detector development) as well as in other fields of science and engineering, especially computing. I hope that this session can be interactive and that ideas, experiences and expertise in physics education and systems thinking can be shared. Thoughts on links with ML and AI would be particularly welcome.