University of Malta

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 PROF. FEDERICO CORNI, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano



 PROF. SUZANNE GATT, University of Malta










Young children interacting with the Physical world


Children, from a young age, express an interested in how the world works. This is often reflected in their play, with curiosity leading them to experience, engage with and explore physical phenomena. Many tend to associate topics such as air, pressure, electricity, forces etc. with secondary students learning Physics. Developments in primary science education, however, show that younger children already possess ideas, even if many are alternative frameworks, about how these physical phenomena work. These ideas can be used to provide primary children with the opportunity to inquire about how these physical phenomena are affected by different factors and conditions. The presentation will consider examples from the EU funded project Pri-Sci-Net of how inquiry activities have been designed and implemented to promote better understanding of physical concepts among primary level children between 5-11 years. It will also consider how inquiry skills which are so important to learning physical sciences at higher levels can start to be nurtured from primary level.


Prof. Suzanne Gatt is Professor in Primary Science and Environmental education at the Faculty of Education, University of Malta. She is a teacher-trainer in primary science with a particular interest in inquiry-based learning. Prof. Gatt has published internationally in the area of science and environmental education at primary level. She is currently co-content editor of the Journal of Emergent Science of the ASE, UK. Prof. Gatt has also implemented a number of EU funded projects such as Comenius and ERASMUS+. She has also coordinated the 3 million FP7 EU funded project Pri-Sci-Net. This project involved the development of a number of inquiry-based learning activities in science for children between ages 5-11 years. The project also included the training of primary teachers on how to implement these inquiries.


 PROF. GESCHE POSPIECH, Technische Universitat Dresden














An educational perspective on the connections between physics and mathematics


Among the methods of physics, the use of mathematics belongs to the most important features. But with respect to physics learning it is also deemed as one of the most complex things with even terrifying aspects. To overcome this situation requires a deep analysis of the processes in mathematization, especially of the role of technical and structural skills, from a theoretical view point as well as with empirical data. On the theoretical side the connection between physical processes and mathematical structures has to be analysed in detail in order to identify possible pitfalls. In qualitative-empirical studies we identify the students’ necessary skills, the span of activities and how the students handle the transition between various representations and cope with given problems. The analysis of the difficulties students have but also of their competences hints to strategies in teaching the transition between physics and mathematics. In this context the awareness of teachers for the different roles of mathematics in physics and possible difficulties and abilities of students is of central importance. We describe different teacher strategies in shaping the connection of mathematics and physics.


Gesche Pospiech is full professor of Physics Education at the Technische Universität Dresden. She earned her Ph D in Applied Mathematics at the University of Heidelberg and her habilitation in Physics Education at University of Frankfurt. In addition, she is fully trained teacher for mathematics and physics and has taught several years at Gymnasium. Her main research interest concerns modern physics in secondary school with a focus on quantum theory from an actual perspective. The second field of research is mathematics in physics education with emphasis von secondary school. In addition, she studies the pedagogical content knowledge of teachers in this field. She has been part in European projects fostering the science interest of students and in the Network Particle world in Germany.  In addition, she is responsible for the physics education training of teacher students at TU Dresden.


 PROF. DAVID SOKOLOFF, University of Oregon













Exploring Multimedia to Adapt Interactive Lecture Demonstrations (ILDs) for Home Use


With the need for distance learning materials thrust upon us alarmingly and suddenly, it is not unreasonable that many have fallen back on passive presentation of lectures and black/whiteboard notes using some mode of video conferencing. But is it possible to maintain some element of active learning for our introductory physics students? I will describe my attempts to use the wealth of multimedia materials currently available (videos, simulations, photos, computer-based laboratory graphs, etc.) to adapt Interactive Lecture Demonstrations (ILDs) (1), (2), (3) to a form that can be used by students at home (4). While recognizing that small-group discussions--and sharing in any way--may be difficult for many, these Home Adapted ILDs retain student predictions as an essential element in engaging students in the learning process. This talk will review the design features of ILDs, describe some of the multimedia resources that are freely available, and present some examples of Home Adapted ILDs. As we enter an uncertain future, this approach could have important applicability for pre-service and in-service teacher preparation programs, as well as for undergraduate physics students. 

(1) David R. Sokoloff and Ronald K. Thornton, “Using Interactive Lecture Demonstrations to Create an Active Learning Environment,” Phys. Teach. 35: 6, 340 (1997).

(2) David R. Sokoloff and Ronald K. Thornton, Interactive Lecture Demonstrations (Hoboken, NJ, John Wiley and Sons, 2004).

(3) David R. Sokoloff, “Active Learning of Introductory Light and Optics,” Phys. Teach. 54: 1, 18 (2016).



David Sokoloff is Professor of Physics, Emeritus at the University of Oregon. He earned his B.A. at Queens College of the City University of New York and his Ph.D. in AMO Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For over three decades, he has studied students' conceptual understandings, and developed active learning approaches (with NSF and FIPSE support). These include Interactive Lecture Demonstrations (ILDs) and the four modules of RealTime Physics: Active Learning Laboratories (RTP), both published by Wiley and co-authored by Priscilla Laws and Ronald Thornton. His work has been published in the American Journal of Physics, the European Journal of Physics and The Physics Teacher. He has conducted numerous international and national workshops to disseminate these active learning approaches to secondary and university faculty. Since 2004, he has been part of the UNESCO Active Learning in Optics and Photonics (ALOP) team, presenting workshops in more than 30 developing countries in Africa, Asia, Eurasia, and Latin America. He is contributor to and editor of the ALOP Training Manual. The ALOP Team was awarded the 2011 SPIE Educator Award. He was awarded the American Physical Society (APS) 2010 Excellence in Physics Education Award (with Priscilla Laws and Ronald Thornton) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) 2007 Robert A. Millikan Medal and 2020 Hans Christian Oersted Medal. He has been a Fulbright Specialist in Argentina (2011) and Japan (2018), is currently a member of IUPAP Commission 14 (International Commission on Physics Education), and served in AAPT’s Presidential Chain 2009-2012.




Recent developments in Physics Teacher Education in the USA: Toward a broad research agenda



PROF. ANDRE XUEREB, University of Malta

Andre Xuereb










Quantum physics for children... and teachers



Quantum physics is often considered one of the more esoteric and difficult-to-understand branches of science. I argue that this is an artefact stemming from the lack of quantum effects in the world around us at a young age. In this talk I will first discuss the core principles of quantum mechanics and their implications in the real world, and then move on to a discussion of how to convey the strange behaviour of the microscopic world in a manner that can be understood and internalised by children.



André Xuereb is a physicist from Malta and currently the Head of the Department of Physics at the University of Malta. He read for an undergraduate degree in mathematics and physics at the University of Malta, a PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Southampton in the UK, and a master degree in entrepreneurship at the University of Malta. He is associate professor of atomic and quantum physics at the University of Malta, is Science Policy Officer of the Malta Chamber of Scientists, represents Malta on several European research networks, and was recently elected as the first Maltese member of the Global Young Academy. André has an active career in science, having established and leading the quantum research group at the University of Malta, and co-owns an educational software startup.

Last Updated: 29 May 2020

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