An “Evidence-Based” Professional Development Program for Physics Teachers Focusing on Knowledge Integration

Leading team

Prof. Bat Sheva Eylon, Dr. Esther Bagno

Postdocs and students

Hana Berger, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow


The program is concerned with the design and studies of an evidence-based and a “blended learning” approaches that were employed in a continuing professional development program (CPD) for physics teachers. The program focused on promoting knowledge integration (KI) in physics lessons by using innovative learner-centered activities –knowledge integration routines– (KIRs) (Bagno et al., 2008)

Through the “evidence-based approach” teachers implemented the KIRs, and systematically assessed their teaching and their students’ learning by collecting “records of practice”, discussed the records with their peers, and summarized the process and outcomes in evidence-reports. Through the “blended-learning” approach teachers were encouraged to interact via a website, in between the face-to-face (f2f) meetings, by participating in a set of special activities designed to ensure continuity of learning during the program.

The program was developed in three consecutive versions whereas its influence on the teachers and students was studied during the enactment of the last version. This version was characterized by four main design principles: 1. The KI and evidence aspects are acquired simultaneously in an integrated manner. 2. The guidance of the teachers follows the principles of cognitive apprenticeship both in the evidence and the KI aspects. 3. The teachers experience the innovative activities as learners. 4. The program promotes continuity of teachers’ learning through a structured “blended learning” approach.

A study carried out with 21 physics teachers and 324 students revealed that the program led to significant changes in teachers’ knowledge about their students’ knowledge and in teachers’ views about the following: 1. the advantages of the KIRs’ innovative teaching tool, 2. the “evidence” as a useful resource for evaluating the contribution of the KIRs to students’ learning, and 3. several “learner-centered” pedagogical aspects: the importance and legitimacy of learning from peers, the need to listen carefully to students’ ideas and reflections, and the need to investigate students’ knowledge, and to plan the teaching accordingly. The study also revealed that 1. the particular evidence-based approach contributed to changes in teachers’ knowledge and views by triggering two interrelated patterns of reasoning: “contrasting facts with expectations” and “generalizations”.2. there was continuity in the teachers’ learning between the f2f and online environments.

The teachers reported that through the implementation of the KIRs, they identified deficiencies in students’ knowledge many of which were new to them. They also reported that students improved their knowledge while advancing through the KIR phases, and that their findings stimulated them to make changes in their practice in response to students’ learning difficulties and to embed the KIRs into their practice.

According to the results of this study we have designed and implemented the didactic courses “Special issues in physics education 1-2” that are part of the Rothschild-Weizmann M.Sc. program. In these courses we continue to search ways to modify their design principles in order to improve the collaborative examination of evidence from classes by better utilizing the integration of the evidence and blended learning approaches.
In addition, the results of this study, serve as anchors in the design and implementation of other CPD programs (blended as well as online programs) for physics teachers.

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