Reflections on context-based science teaching: a case study of physics for students of physiotherapy

Anton Rayner


Secondary Science teaching around Australia has been undergoing radical changes over the past decade. As most states move towards a context-based secondary syllabus, there is a danger that tertiary science teaching will be left behind. I will report on an ongoing project to contextualise a first-year physics course for students of physiotherapy, experiences in implementing changes, and outcomes for both students and staff.

Although there are drawbacks to contextual teaching in the tertiary environment (such as lack of preparation time, the breadth of physics concepts covered, and stretching the boundaries of one’s own understanding as a teacher), the benefits for students’ interest and motivation, as well as their learning outcomes are significant. Based on data from informal student feedback, assessment performance, and standard closed question course surveys, I will show that physics based in the context of physiotherapy challenges students to develop an understanding of the relationship between physics and their profession, and allows the scope to analyse real problems involving treatment modalities at a deeper level than traditional approaches. The focus on thinking and critical analysis means a reduced emphasis on definitional and mathematical rigour, but allows students with and without background in physics and mathematics to be challenged to learn at a deep level

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