Horizon Research report on high school physics: Many teachers underprepared, rely on the lecture method

From the Summary of the Horizon Research report on high school physics in the US:

Nearly all high school physics teachers are white, and two-thirds are male. Less than a quarter have a degree in physics, and more than a quarter have not taken any college courses in physics beyond the introductory level. Physics teachers feel less well prepared to teach physics than other science teachers do to teach their subject. In addition, although physics teachers hold a number of beliefs about teaching and learning that are in alignment with what is known about effective science instruction (e.g., it is better for instruction to focus on ideas in depth, even if that means covering fewer topics), they also hold views that are inconsistent with this research. For example, two-thirds of physics teachers believe that students should be provided with definitions for new vocabulary at the beginning of instruction on an idea.

When asked about their professional development experiences, the vast majority of high school physics teachers have participated in science-focused professional development in the last three years. However, only one-third have had sustained professional development (more than 35 hours) in that time period. They are also less likely than other science teachers to have had opportunities to work with other teachers of physics or teachers from their own school in those professional development experiences.

Data on physics courses indicate that nearly all students in the nation have access to one or more physics courses at their schools. However, physics accounts for only 14 percent of high school science courses, a distant third behind biology (39 percent) and chemistry (22 percent), indicating that fewer students enroll in physics. In addition, although female students are just as likely as male students to take a 1st year physics course as they are to take 1st year biology or chemistry, students from race/ethnic groups historically underrepresented in science are less likely to take 1st year physics than 1st year biology or chemistry. 

Data on instruction indicate that physics instruction relies heavily on lecture and discussion, with students often completing textbook/worksheet problems. However, the data also indicate that students are engaged in hands-on laboratory activities and required to use evidence to support claims fairly regularly. The use of graphing calculators is common in physics classes, much more so than in other high school science classes. In addition, although nearly 70 percent of physics classes use commercially published instructional materials, most cover less than 75 percent of the material in their textbook and spend less than half of instructional time using the text. Physics classes also have higher scores than non-physics classes on a composite variable measuring adequacy of resources for instruction.

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