An investment in programs and professional development of physics teachers in recent years has led to a 45% increase in the number of physics students – 7,892 students took the 5-unit matriculation in 2011 and 11,500 in 2017. The side effects of this sharp growth are more diverse classrooms and higher dropout and failure rates. Struggling students now claim to have experienced fear and anxiety, accompanied by feelings of inability and sometimes even despair. These emotions feed students’ consideration to drop out.
The teachers have been trying to cope with this stress among their students by focusing mostly on helping them understand better the physics material. They use diagnostic assignments in order to identify learning difficulties in real time, and to adapt their teaching and feedback accordingly. They routinely work in professional learning communities with their peers to consult with one another on how to improve their practice. However, they have not yet dealt directly with the psychological barriers of their students and with what seems to be a process of the students losing faith in their potential and ability to succeed.
The Meytiv Center at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, which specializes in educational applications of positive psychology, proposes to help physics teachers confront this hurdle. Last year, with support of the Trump Foundation, Meytiv began to develop a ‘growth mindset’ course for mathematics teachers. They are currently running a pilot program and will implement it over the coming years. Now, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, they are suggesting a similar program for physics teachers to be implemented by 350 five-unit physics teachers across the country.
In the first year, two clinical psychologists and two expert instructors of physics teaching will develop an annual 30-hour training course of ten meetings. The course will implement the principles of growth mindset in physics teaching and include significant practical experience involving classroom practices and video recordings of physics teaching. The course will then be pilot tested with a staff of 15 local and district physics instructors who will test the method and tools in their own classrooms. This trial will lead to producing a training kit.
In the second year, 10 professional learning communities of physics teachers will include the course in their communities, with 150 teachers. The teacher leaders of the communities will receive special training and, together with a psychologist from Meytiv, will implement the 30-hour course in their communities. In the third year, the course will be implemented in 10 additional regional in-service seminars of 200 physics teachers throughout the country. A formative assessment study will monitor the program with a special emphasis on teacher perceptions and how these influences student achievements.
* The text presented above shows the grant as approved by the Foundation Board / Grant 300