Science Backstage – Explore How Physics Works and What Physicists Do

High school students examine how physics research works at the Faculty of Physics, University of Vienna, what research methods are used as well as how scientific communities co-operate. The research groups involved in this course include quantum optics, nano materials and nuclear physics

In general, the public does not know what scientists do while researching. This fact applies particularly to physics. Physics is generally considered as a cognitive difficult matter which is only accessible to some, mostly male, people. Physics lessons in high school, but also teacher training is geared toward the systematic science curriculum. Student teachers as well as in-service teachers have not developed an adequate view of physics as a research discipline nor of the every-day work of researchers. By its objectives and methods, the project tries to bridge this gap between school and research, as the scientific community and its processes can be understood as well as the nature of science.
The pivotal point is the ethnographical research process of high school students in real research environments at university. The scientists are on the one hand “the ones under scrutiny” but also actively involved in the research process. They are as well as the other participants of this project (high school students, teachers and student teachers) involved in the planning and analyzing of data. At the end the results are presented by both high school students and scientists. We expect as a result of this project a shift in beliefs about the nature of science from all participants. This includes a reflection of the gender connotation of the subject. This could also lead to a higher motivation to study physics.

The following concrete „products“ are planned

  • Development and dissemination of lesson concepts that deal with the nature of science
  • Development of concepts for a sustainable co-operation between schools and the faculty of physics
  • Development of target-group aligned concepts for the external presentation of physics research

This project has been completed.