General Relativity in Schools

Graduation
(Image via Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0)

Call me Dr. Magdalena Kersting! I have successfully defended my PhD-thesis "Teaching General Relativity in Secondary School" and what a ride it has been! I feel grateful that I've gotten to stretch students minds with curved space and warped time. Let's celebrate science!

 

According to Albert Einstein common sense is nothing more than prejudices laid down in the mind before the age of eighteen. Even though experiments have repeatedly confirmed Einstein’s ideas about gravity, space, and time, physics education in schools continues to be dominated by a 19th-century point of view. Consequently, the theory of relativity still contradicts the common sense of many. My aim was to change that so that general relativity could become a part of the intellectual equipment of young learners.

 

My PhD-thesis contributes to the emerging field of Einsteinian Physics education by proposing a way of turning general relativity into a subject area that can be taught at the secondary school level. Specifically, I present an educational reconstruction of Einstein’s theory of gravity and the development of a digital learning environment set the stage for my investigations into students’ learning processes and conceptual challenges in general relativity.

 

My findings show that secondary school students are able to obtain a qualitative understanding of general relativity when working with digital learning resources that facilitate interactions with peers and teachers. The recent birth of gravitational wave astronomy and the first-ever taken picture of a black hole create a fantastic vision of physics for the future. The findings of this research will help teachers and instructors bring this vision into science classrooms. Let's use science to illuminate and let's try to make the world a better place!

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