Physics classes in the Israeli high-schools are often small, targeting only the most talented students in the school. Physics is a particularly challenging subject which demands high-quality teaching and special attention to the individual learning progress of each student. For the past two years, we have been leading a three years project aimed at cultivating high quality “learner-centered” physics teaching as a means to attract high-school students to physics learning and decrease the dropout of students who are already majoring in physics. The project is funded by the Trump foundation and supported by the Ministry of Education and the Physics Superintendent.
We have developed a professional development program for physics teachers disseminated by regional “learning communities” of physics teachers. The communities enable the individual teacher to share with colleagues experience and resources, to become acquainted with “learner-centered” teaching, and promote collaboratively evidence-based excellent practice.
A group of 20 experienced physics teachers are being trained in the Science Teaching Department to serve as teacher-leaders for the communities. Today, at the end of the second year of the project, we have been running six regional “learning communities” facing 80 physics teachers and through them approaching thousands of students.
We plan for the coming school year to expand the outreach of the project by adding three learning communities and a large ICT community.
According to an ongoing evaluation, physics teachers consider the program to be very useful. They tell how it changed the atmosphere in their classes by starting to integrate “learner-centered” strategies into their lessons, showing more “cool” demonstrations and using toys and video clips. Some of the teachers even succeeded to increase the percentage of students majoring in physics as a result of their participation in the program.
Our vision is that regional teacher communities will be set up throughout the country and provide long-term professional development opportunities for the Israeli physics teachers.