Benefits of Studying Physics for Students

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The main issue of this paper is the discussion around the question "How can we teach and motivate the why-generation learners and the generation Z learners?".
The aim of our project was to find out teaching and learning methods that teachers and learners can use in
21st-century classrooms. Strategies how to engage gen Y and gen Z learners in the learning process should be found.
1. Universal Journal of Educational Research 3(10): 727-734, 2015
DOI: 10.13189/ujer.2015.031011
How to Motivate our Students to Study Physics?
Renata Holubova
Department of Experimental Physics, Science Faculty, Palacky University, Czech Republic
Copyright © 2015 by authors, all rights reserved. Authors agree that this article remains permanently open access under the
terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 International License
Abstract The main issue of this paper is the discussion 1. Introduction
around the question "How can we teach and motivate the
why-generation learners and the generation Z learners?". The issue of teaching Generation Y has been discussed
The aim of our project was to find out teaching and learning previously [1]. The why - generation, called also Y gen,
methods that teachers and learners can use in 21st century Millennial generation was born in 1980-2000. The
classroom. Strategies how to engage gen Y and gen Z generation Y students learn and study in such a different way
learners in the learning process should be found. During our as the previous gen X did. They have other characteristics
research various methods were used: problem based learning, than generation X that are important and affect their learning
project based learning, team work, inquiry based learning, in positive and negative ways. Gen Y students are
interdisciplinary approach, experiments – from very simple characterized as www users and technology users. Gen Y is
and low cost experiments to computer based experiments powerful and able to change the world. They want to learn
and remote laboratories. It was found out, that generation Y with technology, online and doing thing that matter – this is
so as gen Z learners can be motivated by various almost important for them. Being on line is necessary for
instructional methods based on their own activity. Their own learning, research, socializing. Learners born in 1995-2012
doing seemed to be more important for them than learning are generation Z kids. Their current population is about 23
itself. It is necessary to use educational materials including million. We know only a little about this new generation.
charts, graphic presentations, cartoons. Also it was found out Currently, we speak not only of generation Y, but also the
that a very useful tool for our students can be the mind newly emerging generation Z. A few years ago the debate
mapping. Mind maps and concept maps are not common about whether the use of digital technology does not digitize
during students instruction at secondary and high schools in the children themselves has been launched, triggered by the
the Czech republic. We prepared a set of concept maps on the publication of books by Don Tapscott in 1998. For example
basis of high school physics textbooks, from mechanics, we can point out his book “Growing Up Digital : The Rise of
molecular physics, via electricity and magnetism to optics, the Net Generation”. It stated, among other things, that from
and nuclear physics. In this paper the outcomes of our project the generational point of view, children are "ahead” of their
will be presented so as some examples of interdisciplinary parents right in the use of digital technology, which is the key
modules that have been prepared – "real-world" physics factor in today's society. Prensky [7] divides the generation
modules with everyday life problems that can be integrated into digital natives and digital immigrants. Digital natives
into the high school curriculum physics (physics in the are identified as having “radically different way of thinking,
kitchen, crime scene investigation, environmental physics), processing information and learning new things." Compared
non-traditional experiments, properties of non-Newtonian to them, "digital immigrants have very little understanding of
liquids (experiments with dilatant fluids, oobleck, the these new skills that the natives have cultivated by years of
suspension of starch, the Weissenberg effect, Barus effect, testing and interaction. These skills are something almost
the Kaye effect), modern physics – nanotechnology foreign to immigrants who learn slowly, step by step, one by
(cooperation with the Regional Centre of Advanced one, individually, and above all, with a straight face.”
Technologies and Materials - a faculty establishment) . The Prensky therefore is one of the main promoters of leaving the
findings of this project are incorporated into the subject traditional method of individualized learning. Primacy
"Didactics of Physics“ in the undergraduate physics teacher should play class digitization, linking play with learning,
study programme at the Faculty of Science. increasing interactivity in the classroom. The results stated
below show the inability of schools and teachers to adapt to
Keywords Millennials, Teaching Methods, Concept the way of students’ thinking and their way of information
Maps, Motivation, Interdisciplinary Relations processing (see results of Czech pupils' reading literacy in
PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment)).
The new generation of our kids, the generation Z leaners are
2. 728 How to Motivate our Students to Study Physics?
even more Internet savvy than gen Y was. As written on in pairs or groups. Most of the teaching hours were rather
Education views [13], the following result can be shortly focused on teachers. In the teaching hours very little time
summarized: Baby boomers changed politics, Gen X was devoted to a recap of the curriculum. As to the usage of
changed family, Gen Y changed work and Gen Z will change modern tools and technologies in more than 40 % of teaching
education. classes no medium was used. Most experiments were carried
Today's elementary and middle schools are becoming out in the traditional way. In the analysis of verbal
better and better equipped with information and expression, it was found out that the average number of
communications technologies (ICT). Some teachers perceive teacher‘s words was 2976, while student’s – 616 [4].
this fact very positively and try to engage digital media into Our own research was also focused on the study of
educational process. Nowadays it is also agreed in public that physics´ lessons - the design of the lesson - realized by
today's schools cannot teach our kids just using chalk and teachers with different specializations and different lengths
blackboard. But only up to date school equipment and of teaching experience. In the framework of our
modern technology will not improve the quality of teaching. investigation auditions at 10 different elementary schools
Use of multimedia is not the only way how to motivate (including private ones and for students with special ADHD
students in the classroom. The technology has the potential disorder - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in cities
to modernize teaching and can provide a support, in with different number of inhabitants were carried out.
particular, to the constructivist approach of acquisition of During the observation period the following indicators were
skills and knowledge. Contribution lies mainly in the fact considered:
that modern technology will accelerate and automate some  teachers’ activity - goal setting (e.g., using active
of the activities that are tedious, repetitive. The teacher gets verbs " define ", "prove“),
more time for the use of activation methods of teaching.  timing goals, structure of the lesson, work with
Many teachers involves ICT into teaching just because they students, discipline
know that students enjoy using the computer. Often they are  methods
not able to exploit the potential that digital technologies have  teaching aids
given to teaching. As states Zounek [11] the issue is a  the use of ICT
didactic effectiveness: the children are happy when they can  lesson development and environmental conditions.
be at their computer, but the teacher, because of "packed
curriculum", cannot afford it too often. Taking into Findings showed that teaching in those schools is
consideration the huge investment that involves schools conducted in the traditional way. The goal of the teaching
technologization, such perception of ICT as a teaching brake was formulated, in 40 % cases, immediately after the start of
seems somewhat paradoxical. It often indicates that teachers the teaching hour and mostly using active verbs. Explanation
are poorly prepared to use ICT technology for didactic of the new material was provided by a teacher, the general
purposes. It therefore stresses the baseline at today's school criteria of correctness and adequacy of verbal expression
operation due to the link teacher – student and motivation - being held. Teachers were able to ask students factually
students can monitor digital technology, the teacher's skills correct and understandable questions, involving the whole
to operate ICT is something rather different from that to be class into the dialogue. Unfortunately, these activating
used it in teaching. teaching methods were used in a small part of the lesson. An
The problem often lies in a small compendium of teacher interesting and intriguing explanation of the material
about how to use ICT in teaching different subjects. appeared only in 30 % of the lessons. Discipline was
maintained by warning (50 % of cases), shouting, slamming
textbook, referring to the reduction of classification. All
2. Research Area teachers used various equipment during teaching -
computer with a data projector (in two classes), in one class -
The aim of the research was to analyse teaching Physics video, mostly used equipment were classical educational
provided by different teachers in different schools. Our aids, sometimes - non-traditional experimental aids (PET
project was intended as a follow-up research to the activity of bottles). Interesting was the lesson in the classroom with
the Educational Research Centre in Brno. Between children with ADHD. These children tend to disturb, to be in
2004-2007 this centre carried an extensive research on the the spotlight, talking fast. On the other hand, these children
second level of elementary schools using video-analysis were very active in learning, in case of making a mistake
(Janík 2009). Goals of the monitoring have been, for they were trying to find other solution, they discussed the
example: organizational forms of teaching, stages of problems. In the rest of schools we visited the majority of
teaching, teaching materials and media used in education, students was passive, unwilling to answer or seek for new
opportunities of verbal expression offered by the instructions. solutions. One of the most important conclusions of this
The survey showed that average 14 minutes of the teaching research is that in addition to the use of data projector and, in
class (of 45 minutes) were devoted to talking with students, one case, an interactive whiteboard, the method of teaching
10 minutes – to presentation of a new material, 4.5 minutes – has not changed. Even in today's school prevails classic
to independent students’ work and 3.75 minutes to work lesson structure without the use of ICT that does not conform
3. Universal Journal of Educational Research 3(10): 727-734, 2015 729
to the requirements for the education of students’ generation a) Comprehensive concept map - is created by the
Y and generation Z. The same trend persists in a large teacher, includes the basic concepts and relationships
number of secondary schools, where only few teachers use between them
the potential of problem and project based learning, b) Teaching tool - a graphical interpretation of the
teamwork, interdisciplinary relations and computer curriculum, it is possible to use only a part of the map
controlled experiments. relating to the appropriate section of the curriculum
c) Learning aid - students create their own maps.
The map can include concepts from everyday life and
3. Output of Research other natural sciences. The map is not correct or incorrect, it
As a help to secondary school teachers a set of concept indicates the current state of student’ knowledge and
maps, based on our findings, has been developed. These understanding of the concepts discussed.
maps were created according to physics textbooks used in Concept maps, which should serve as a diagnostic tool,
secondary schools in the Czech Republic. Due to the can be evaluated by a teacher using the following criteria:
Generation Y way of learning the mentioned structuring complexity, inclusion of basic concepts, and existence of
concepts were developed as a tool to increase the quality of meaningful relationships between concepts.
learning. Students can also create conceptual maps in free During the course Didactic of Physics students – future
available programs and take advantage of ICT usage. The teachers of physics are getting familiar with this tool and
conceptual structure can also indicate the current state of learn how to create and evaluate conceptual maps. Software
students’ knowledge and can be kept supplemented and that was used - CmapTools, SMARTIdeas software 5.1,
refined. It also allows variable use of concept maps in mind maple, free mind.
Figure 1. Concept map – example (free fall)
4. 730 How to Motivate our Students to Study Physics?
Figure 2. Concept map – example (circuit of alternating current)
Figure 3. The electromagnetic spectrum
Upgrading existing modules Modules have been presented at more than 50 schools in the
country. Modules content has been upgraded - it was
As stated in the paper at the conference GIREP
extended by using of modern technology - thermal imagers
2013(GIREP- International Research Group on Physics
and digital microscope, including proposals for series of
Teaching) [1], to help our teachers (so as to motivate
experiments with these tools.
students) modules that use inter-disciplinary links were
prepared. The application of natural sciences in everyday Examples of new topics
life and also the use of modern technology is underlined to.
Primary and secondary schools expressed strong interest, in Thermal imager - thematic units in the high school physics
particular, to the presentation of the modules Physics and curriculum: electromagnetic radiation, optics - blackbody
Criminology, Culinary Physics and Environmental Physics. radiation.
5. Universal Journal of Educational Research 3(10): 727-734, 2015 731
Basic knowledge: are assigned to each of different colour temperatures. Among
Thermography is a measuring method, which allows you the most frequently discovered palette colours in
to display graphically the temperature on the surface of the thermography are: polar ice, iron, and rainbow.
object being tracked. Infrared radiation is emitted by all
bodies whose temperature is above absolute zero.
Relations, which are used in thermography and which are
part of the school curriculum:
 Planck's law
Planck's law expresses the dependence of the intensity of
blackbody radiation on the thermodynamic temperature and
wavelength. The claim is based on the observation that each
body having a surface temperature above absolute zero
emits electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength
corresponding to its temperature.
2πhc 2
Wλb = ⋅10 −6 [W·m-3]
 hc

λ5  e λkT − 1
 
where Wλb is the spectral density of the intensity of black
body radiation at wavelength λ , c is the speed of light (3 ∙ 108
m ⋅ s-1, h is Planck's constant ( 6.626 ∙ 10- 34 J ∙ s), k is
Boltzmann's constant (1.381 ∙ 10-23 J ∙ K-1), T is absolute
temperature of the black body [K] and λ - wavelength [m].
 Wien's displacement law
The Law describes the change in wavelengths at which
blackbody energy is radiated in dependence on the change of
thermodynamic temperature λmax = b / T [m], where λmax is
the wavelength of maximum emission, T is the
thermodynamic temperature of a black body, and b is Wien
constant (b = 2.898 ∙ 10-3 m ∙ K).
 Stefan - Boltzmann law
Stefan- Boltzmann law describes the overall intensity of
blackbody radiation. The law says that the intensity of the
radiation increases in direct proportion to the fourth power of
the thermodynamic temperature of the radiating body.
However, in real conditions we cannot meet with absolutely
black body; hence we need to complement Stefan -
Boltzmann relation with the emissivity ε of the body.
Firure 4. Palette – polar ice, iron, rainbow
Wb = εσT 4 -2
[W · m ],
where Wb is the spectral density of the intensity of black
body radiation, ε is body emissivity, σ is the Stefan -
Boltzmann constant (σ = 5.670 ∙ 10 -8 W ⋅ m-2 ⋅K-4 ) and T is
the thermodynamic temperature [K].
 Thermo gram
The output from the thermal imaging camera is an infrared
image called a thermo gram, or thermal image. Thermal
imagers allow the user to determine the temperature at each
point of the thermo gram. Infrared light is invisible to the
human eye, for this reason, infrared images are visualized in
the visible spectrum using different colour palettes, which
6. 732 How to Motivate our Students to Study Physics?
Figure 5. Thermogram of two different people earlobes Figure 7. Thermogram of heating water
 Culinary physics Heating water with a gas cooker – the pot so as the
– linked to the topics: transport of heat, thermal surroundings is getting hot. Heating with the induction hob –
conductivity - we can show the process of liquids heating only the liquid in the pot changes the temperature.
with gas cookers, induction hobs. It is interesting to observe  Environmental issues
thermo gram during ice cubes melting in liquids of different
- thermal imager can detect errors in solar panels.
density (linked to environmental issues - global warming,
Damaged cells can cause abnormal heating - and therefore
melting glaciers).
they can cause a fire. In addition, damaged cells can cause
substantial loss of performance of the whole system (the
whole module strings).
Figure 6. Thermogram of melting ice cubes
In the left beaker is a brine, in the right one is pure water.
After adding an ice cube into the beakers, in the left one a
layer of cold water can be seen, in the right beaker the whole
water is getting cold.
Figure 8. Defect in a solar panel
USB microscope and its use
Universal serial bus (USB) - microscope can be connected
to a personal computer, a laptop or a tablet and observe
objects in their live image, capture images, save them in the
format and later work with them. Observation is simpler than
with a light microscope and for the normal school
7. Universal Journal of Educational Research 3(10): 727-734, 2015 733
experimental environment it has sufficient magnification. students are motivated to study physics when they can use
Objects that can be observed have dimensions from dozens modern information technology, computers, internet, mobile
to thousands of microns. Within the module Physics and phones. The majority of schools are good equipped with
criminology we can use this microscope to analyse fibres and multimedia. We have found out that teachers use these
hair, observe small objects found at the „crime scene“. For multimedia rarely; they are not able to take advantage of this
teaching optics it is possible to demonstrate the mixing of teaching aids. Reason for it can be lack of skills and
colours – visualize sub - pixels. unwillingness to learn something new. We tried to design a
variety of activities, where these devices could be effectively
and meaningfully used. The process of learning physics we
made more attractive and thus contributing to the acquisition
of competences defined by the school curriculum. The new
Gen Z cannot live without digital technology, but they are
not interested how it works. Technology is only a tool for
them. When we will achieve better results in the educational
process, it is necessary to educate in-service so as pre-service
teachers the new approach in teaching and learning science.
It is necessary to teach them creativity, exploration skills and
understanding of natural phenomena. The activities
mentioned above will help to improve the success of
teaching and learning science.
The paper is supported by the project OPVK
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Figure 9. USB microscope – hair and instant coffee
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Figure 10. USB microscope – RGB sub pixels evolutionize-education/.
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