The PhD student will develop new curriculum materials with the help of physicists and will work with a few selected school groups.

Measuring the effectiveness of teaching Einsteinian physics at an early age

The premise of this PhD project is that it is possible and, indeed, beneficial to begin to teach the concept of Einsteinian Physics at an early age.

Project

Since early in the twentieth century physicists have known that the geometry of the universe is the geometry of curved space, and that the quantum reality of the universe is weird and extraordinary. Both of these topics are seen as being "difficult" and have minimal coverage in school science curricula. Curved space gives rise to surprising phenomena like the effect of gravity on clocks, and errors in standard geometrical formulae. Despite knowing that Newtonian physics is strictly incorrect, the teaching of physics at school has remained Newtonian, with little recognition given to the discoveries which are now 100 years old, and which are essential for understanding space engineering and modern electronics. This project will test the following:

  1. the ability of primary school students to understand curved space geometry, and to understand that flat space geometry is a special case, but one which for most purposes is a very useful approximation.
  2. the ability of secondary students to understand basic concepts of both quantum mechanics and Einstein's relativity, while also understanding that Newtonian physics is a useful approximation.
  3. whether this new approach to teaching physics helps to improve student attitudes to physics by presenting physics as a frontier of learning with many mysteries and problems still to be solved.

Eligibility

Applicants should have excellent academic records and preferably an internationally peer reviewed paper. General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Suggested reading

Pitts, M., Venville, G., Blair, D., Zadnik, M., 'An Exploratory Study to Investigate the Impact of an Enrichment Program on Aspects of Einsteinian Physics on Year 6 Students', RESEARCH IN SCIENCE EDUCATION, Online, pp. 26pp. (2014)

Venville, G., Blair, D., Coward, D., Deshon, F., Gargano, M., Gondwe, M., Heary, A., Longnecker, N., Pitts, M., Zadnick, M. 2012, 'Research informed science enrichment programs at the Gravity Discovery Centre', TEACHING SCIENCE, 58, 1, pp. 33-39. (2012) Detail

Hendry, M.A., Bradaschia, C., Audley, H., Barke, S., Blair, D.G., Christensen, N.L., Danzmann, K.V., Freise, A., Gerberding, O., Knispel, B., Lieser, M., Mandel, I., Moore, T.A., Stuver, A.L., Whiting, B.F., 'Education and public outreach on gravitational-wave astronomy', General Relativity and Gravitation, 46, 8, pp. 1-11. (2014)