Fight Like a Physicist

Case studies and presentations


Thursday 23 February




Emily Hall

Science Teaching Co-ordinator

Otago University Advanced School Sciences Academy (OUASSA), University of Otago, New Zealand


When I was teaching high school Physics, I heard over and over from students that Physics was “boring” and “not relevant” and “too much maths”. Most of the students in my class were there because they needed Physics for their post high school plans and not from interest in the subject. My aim with my Masters thesis and my work now is to show students that Physics is fun, practical, and relevant to their every day lives. To get them to see Physics differently.

In 2013, I worked with Year 12 and 13 high school students teaching Physics concepts through karate. I used this work, workshops to the public at 2014 New Zealand International Science Festival, and a survey of Physics knowledge amongst martial artists for my Masters of Science Communication thesis (2015). Presently, I have been working in a Year 11 Physical Education class to teach them Physics practically during PE. The school I have been working with is a public, lower decile, all-girls school. Year 11 is the year last year of compulsory Science education in the school that I am working with so interventions in this year can help encourage students to choose Science as an option. This work was encouraged by the school as they participate in Sport in Education (SiE) (an initiative of Sport New Zealand) and also the Active Education program which grew from the SiE project. The entire Year 11 student cohort was pre tested at the beginning of the year in common misconceptions in Physics based on the Force Concept Inventory. I then taught a 5 credit (3PE credits and 2Physics credits) 12 lesson unit called “Fight like a Physicist” to the two classes of Year 11 PE students. In October, once all the students had completed their Mechanics unit in Science, the entire cohort was post tested. The students who undertook the Fight like a Physicist unit in PE performed better in the post test than those who had not undertaken the unit. There were some very interesting outcomes I had not expected, such as in certain topics, average student understanding had gotten worse between the pre and post test, however, the students in the PE class showed less average loss than those in the rest of the cohort.