How to Teach the Physics of Everyday Life

In today’s podcast, Bryan explains how he teaches physics. He believes that teaching physics is about continuously building a mental model, and he covers the methods and mindsets that facilitate that learning style.

The basic Wikipedia definition of physics states that it is a science that deals with matter, energy, and their interactions. Even then, we can simplify “matter” to “stuff.” Simplifications like these help students feel more familiar with the subject and NOT feel intimidated by the material. Students learn best when they feel like they can grasp the topics out of the gate. That is why the math-based approaches of traditional education might turn students away from physics. Some students who don’t like math might feel out of their depth when teachers approach topics with a mathematical approach.

Instead, effective teaching is about attaching experiences to a concept. Teachers can take stock of what students already know and build on that. They can also attach experiences to a concept, such as by allowing students to have hands-on experiences with physics examples in the real world. Once students have relevant experiences, they have the tools to learn through similes and analogies.

Bryan covers:

  • Socratic learning
  • Comparing levers to seesaws for educational purposes
  • Experimentation and experience
  • Similes, metaphors, and analogies
  • Shortcomings of math-based learning methods
  • Creating “cartoons” in your head to learn topics
  • Teaching superheat and subcool with mental “cartoons”
  • States of matter
  • Humidity and the weight of water vapor
  • Electron movement
  • Steam and why it’s complicated
  • Teaching electricity with comparisons (water, drawbridges, jump ropes)
  • How children (and babies) learn about physics as they navigate the world
  • Mythbusting

Remember, when it comes to education, the goal is to learn, NOT to impress people.

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