Learning Physical Science


Learning Physical Science is a one-semester curriculum with a student-oriented pedagogy designed to enable students to develop a deep understanding of the conceptual themes of energy, forces, and the atomic-molecular theory of matter and is suitable for a large lecture hall environment or a small enrollment class with no mandatory lab component. The course is designed in part for prospective elementary teachers.

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Professional Learning

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A guided-inquiry physical science curriculum for pre-service and in-service K-5 teachers.


Unique Learning about Learning Component

Students directly engage in metacognitive activities that allow them to explore how they as students learn science.

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Total Support
for Instructors

In person and online support, educational webinars, lesson modeling, and much more is available from our Professional Learning Team. 

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Curriculum Details

The Learning Physical Science curriculum has been taught and field tested at two-year and four-year institutions; has been adapted for a science methods course in schools of education; and can be offered as a workshop for practicing elementary teachers.

In addition, the Elementary Science and Everyday Thinking set of activities has also been developed for elementary school teachers to use in their own classrooms.

Learning Physical Science is Inquiry-Based

Learning Physical Science elicits student initial ideas and then provides students with opportunities to acquire evidentiary support that helps them to decide, if appropriate, to develop new or modified ideas.

Learning Physical Science Includes a Unique Learning about Learning Component

Learning Physical Science is designed to help students develop an understanding of important aspects of scientific thinking and the nature of science. It also include lessons about how students learn science themselves and how others (for example, either elementary school students or other college students) learn science.

In this unit students learn about the macroscopic quantities of pressure and temperature and the small particle theory of gases, which helps connect the observable macroscopic quantities to their microscopic explanations.

About The

Fred Goldberg is Professor of Physics at San Diego State University. Since the 1980s he has been involved in physics education. Initially, his group studied student understanding in topical areas of physics, and later studied students’ beliefs about physics knowledge and learning. They then focused on developing strategies that addressed student difficulties. Many strategies involved the use of computer technology, including both data acquisition tools and computer simulations. Since the late 1990s, his group has focused on studying how students learn in a technology rich, collaborative learning environment. He has directed or co-directed many large National Science Foundation grants on research on learning, on development of curriculum materials for middle school, high school and college, on preservice teacher education and on professional development for teachers. He has served on several editorial boards, including the American Journal of Physics, The Physics Teacher, and the International Journal of Science Education. In 2003, he was the recipient of the Robert A. Millikan Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers for notable and creative contributions to the teaching of physics. For the past several years his main focus has been on developing high quality inquiry-based science curricula for prospective elementary teachers, and working with elementary teachers to promote responsive teaching (attending and responding to the substance of their students’ ideas and thinking).