10. Ways to teach… Electricity

Merry Christmas Physics teachers!  In a bumper festive edition, Thomas and Robin have rounded up your ideas and tips on how to teach electricity.  It’s quite rare to reach a clear conclusion in a discussion of teaching, but there was consensus that if you are going to use a model, then the rope model is a great starting point, and Thomas has written a full description of a way to use the rope model in his blog.  We also acknowledged some other models and their usefulness: the important thing is to reflect and evaluate, but then again isn’t it always?


You can see all the tips and suggestions in a gallery at the bottom of the page.

We were delighted that the excellent PhET resources were mentioned by a couple of people. There are several electricity simulations, for example the DC construction kit.

Robin mentioned the Supporting Physics Teaching Web site, and its resources on electricity. It’s a great resource but is more akin to an Encyclopedia than a guide.   For a nice clear description of the rope model read the article by Tom Norris about teaching electricity. Tom also sent us a message after the interview:

Traditionally, in ks3 electricity schemes, you teach the electricity concepts, and *then* comes a lesson where you teach about electricity models. I personally wouldn’t do the “evaluating models” lesson unless I’m happy students’ understanding of electricity itself is at an expert enough level to be able to spot the subtle nuances of what the models do well and not so well. And also, secondly, because I don’t think knowledge of electricity models is anywhere near important enough to give a whole lesson to. The most important resource physics teachers have is time, and I the electricity topic I want to spend every lesson teaching about electricity itself. I don’t see electricity models as ‘content for students to learn’, rather, electricity models are something that I, the teacher, turn to, to help me explain/demonstrate the electricity concepts that I’m teaching.

Tom Norris

Lucky shot of an arc sparking

Thomas was delighted by the idea of driving a aluminium foil capacitor with the EHT. He duly did it and was delighted with the results.

What an exceptional community we are building!  All of this week’s podcast came from our growing listenership, so a million thanks.  Keep spreading the word, and if you liked the slightly different format (or not!), do let us know.  Similarly, if there’s anything you’d like to cover, please do share.  We plan another special on energy soon.

Have a good rest and we’ll see you in the New Year!

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