# Questions about physics teaching pedagogy

Are questions that relate to how physics is being presented in teaching on topic in this site?

• – Qmechanic Mod
Feb 19, 2020 at 8:53

While in general the subject of a question doesn't determine if it is on or off topic, I will say that, unfortunately, I think questions that relate to how physics is being presented in teaching is off topic for this site$$^*$$. The biggest reason is because most questions like this will probably be opinion-based, which is a reason for question closure here. Perhaps a question about physics education research with actual quantitative data would not be considered opinion-based, but I feel like at that point you are moving away from asking about physics and more about just teaching. And even then, there can be varying opinions about how the data should be interpreted, how one should act upon that interpretation, etc. Therefore, while physics education is certainly important for physics, and I am sure many people here would have some great things to say, I don't think it fits what Physics SE is specifically about.

This is not to say that I don't think such questions are important. I love thinking and talking about physics education. Based on the related links given by @QMechanic in the comments of your post, it looks like there have been attempts to create SE sites devoted to physics education. If you feel strongly about having a place for physics education questions, perhaps you could study what went wrong in the failed attempts to make a better site. I would definitely love to be a part of that site.

$$^*$$ This is not to say that there cannot be any physics teaching questions on this site. I am speaking more generally about how I think such questions will most likely be interpreted by the community.

• I was thinking about a "physics educators SE" or equivalent the other day. It's definitely something I would be interested in, though probably not as much as users like you who are actually still directly involved with tutoring/teaching.
– JMac
Feb 19, 2020 at 20:56
• @JMac There is a Mathematics Educators SE site, and one for computer science, currently in beta. There have been several (now deleted) proposals for Science Educators SE (or equivalents) on Area 51, if I remember correctly; I can find the dead link for one of them and one for Pedagogy, but finding deleted proposals is hard. Feb 20, 2020 at 13:43
• On meta downvotes really don't do anything without a comment. Isn't the point to have a discussion? Feb 20, 2020 at 15:04

Motivated by an exchange of comments with @Ghoster in connection with this question, I come back to this discussion (I also re-read the related links indicated by Qmechanic).

I have the impression that most of the points of view, here and there, assume that every question about how physics is being presented in teaching is necessarily a question about pedagogy. I would agree with considering them off-topic on this site if it were true.

However, teaching strategies about Physics is not only a matter of pedagogy. Without a sound and deep understanding of concepts, no purely pedagogical strategy may work.

My point of view is that the border between on-topic and off-topic questions mentioning teaching strategies should be established on the ground of the presence or not of a need for conceptual clarification. Clarifying concepts is perfectly admissible on this site and should not be considered opinion-based. The possible mentioning of the origin of the question from teaching needs should not be an argument for classifying a question as off-topic automatically.

• My position is that it is the OP’s responsibility to put the focus on concepts, not pedagogy, and if they fail to do so the question should be closed. Currently the title of the post in question is “Teaching the Standing Wave Model vs Bohr's Model” and the body reads “In an introductory teaching level, what are the advantages and the disadvantages to teach the standing wave model of the hydrogen atom, (as in PSSC Physics textbook, 7th edition) versus the Bohr's model of this atom?” (Emphases mine.) This is a question about teaching, not about concepts. Feb 14 at 17:15
• I also note that the OP did not take the opportunity to revise the question. Instead, they attempted to dodge my objection to questions about pedagogy by commenting “Let's forget about physics pedagogy.” They ignored my comment that that “You can’t change a question by just writing a comment; you can change it by editing it.” Only by editing the question to refocus on concepts can this question be made on-topic. It doesn’t have to be the OP who does that, but it’s not going to be me, because the pros and cons of two wrong historical theories don’t interest me. Feb 14 at 17:26
• On second thought… That is also off-topic and suitable only for HSM. Feb 14 at 17:28
• @Ghoster One can be not interested in historical theories. However, Bohr's theory, at variance with caloric theory, is well present in the training of every contemporary physicist and even at the school level. It's a model like de Broglie's matter wave. Both models can be used to understand the atoms' electronic states. We can do the same without them? Certainly. We could also get rid of Schrödinger's equation as a historical theory and start directly with the Dirac quantum field. My opinion is that there is some value in speaking about Bohr' s model to understand Physics even today. Feb 14 at 22:41