Section 5 Atomic Physics Overview

A. Teacher’s role

Teachers should be well acquainted with the aims and objectives of the curriculum and arrange meaningful learning activities for their fulfilment. They should timely and appropriately employ different learning and teaching approaches, and play the roles of a resource person, facilitator and assessor. Teachers are encouraged to use different strategies such as discussion, practical work and project learning to facilitate students’ learning. The learning process can be enhanced by stimulating students to think, encouraging students to explore and inquire, and giving appropriate guidance and encouragement to students according to individual needs. The followings are some suggestions made in accordance with these observations.

Designing teaching sequence

The topics in the curriculum are listed in a possible teaching sequence. However, different teaching sequences can be adopted to enhance learning. Teachers are encouraged to design teaching sequences for their particular groups of students.

Catering for students’ abilities

In deciding teaching strategies, students’ abilities should be given due consideration, and it is unrealistic to expect every student to achieve the same level of attainment. In this curriculum, the core and extension parts are suggested for different ability groups. Teachers should have the flexibility to devise teaching schemes with appropriate breadth and depth according to the abilities of their own students and to make learning challenging but not too demanding. This can pave the way to enjoyable learning experiences.


To cater for students with a strong interest or outstanding abilities in physics, teachers can set more challenging learning objectives on top of those described in this document. Teachers should exercise their professional judgement to implement this curriculum so that students would not be deprived of opportunities to develop their full potential.

Moreover, time allocations for the sections are suggested in the chapter on CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK. Rough-and-ready as they are, these estimates could nonetheless provide useful guidance to teachers as to the depth of treatment required and the weighting to be placed on each section.

Teaching with a Contextual approach

Learning is most effective if it is built upon the existing background knowledge of students.

Learning through a real-life context accessible to students will increase their interest and enhance the learning of physics. The context-based learning highlights the relevance of physics to students’ daily life and can be employed to enhance their awareness of the inter-relationships between science, technology and society. When the original concepts have been learned with effectiveness, confidence and interest, the transfer of concepts, knowledge and skills to other contexts can then be made. Teachers are strongly encouraged to adopt a contextual approach in an implementation of the curriculum.

Designing learning activities

Teachers should motivate students through a variety of ways such as letting them know the goals and expectations of learning, building on their successful experiences, meeting their interest and considering their emotional reactions. Learning activities are designed according to these considerations. Some examples of these activities are given below.

Article reading

Students should be given opportunities to read independently science articles of appropriate breadth and depth. The abilities to read, interpret, analyse and communicate new scientific concepts and ideas can then be developed. Meaningful discussions on good science articles among students and with teachers may also be used to strengthen general communication skills. The abilities of self-learning developed this way will be invaluable in preparing students to become active life-long learners.

A variety of articles, which may be used to emphasise the interconnections between science, technology and society, will serve the purposes of broadening and enriching the curriculum, bringing into which current developments and relevant issues. Teachers may select suitable articles for their own students according to their interest and abilities, and students are encouraged to search for such articles from newspapers, science magazines and the Internet.

The main purpose of this part of the curriculum is to encourage reading. The factual knowledge acquired is of relatively minor importance; whereas rote memorization of the contents is undesirable and should be discouraged.

Discussions and debates

Discussions and debates in the classroom promote students' understanding, and help them develop higher order thinking skills as well as an active learning attitude. One of the most effective ways to motivate students is to make discussions or debates relevant to their everyday life. Presenting arguments allows students to extract useful information from a variety of sources, to organise and present ideas in a clear and logical form, and to make valid judgements based on scientific evidence. Teachers can start a discussion with issues related to science, technology and society, and invite students to freely express their opinions in the discussion, at the end of which students can present their ideas to the whole class and receive comments from their teacher and classmates.

Teachers must avoid discouraging discussions in the classroom by insisting too much and too soon on an impersonal and formal scientific language. It is vital to accept relevant discussions in students’ own language during the early stages of concept learning, and to move towards precision and accuracy of scientific usage in a progressive manner.

Practical work

Physics is a practical subject and thus practical work is essential for students to gain a personal experience of science through doing and finding out. In the curriculum, designing and performing experiments are given due emphases.

Teachers should avoid giving manuals or worksheets for experiments with ready-made data tables and detailed procedures, for this kind of instructional materials provide fewer opportunities for students to learn and appreciate the process of science. With an inquiry-based approach, students are required to design all or part of the experimental procedures, and to decide what data to record and how to analyse and interpret the data.

Students will show more curiosity and sense of responsibility for their own experiments leading to significant gains in their basic scientific skills.




Ÿ designing and planning Ÿ prediction of

results Ÿ manipulation

of apparatus Ÿ collection of


Ÿ consideration of safety

Moreover, experiments are better designed to “find out” rather than to “verify”. Teachers should avoid giving away the answers before the practical work, and students should try to draw their own conclusions from the experimental results. The learning of scientific principles will then be consolidated.

Project Learning

Learning through project work, a powerful strategy to promote self-directed, self-regulated and self-reflecting learning, enables students to connect knowledge, skills, and values and attitudes, and to accumulate knowledge through a variety of learning experiences. It also serves to develop a variety of skills such as scientific problem solving, critical thinking and communication. Project work can be carried out individually or in small groups, and students will plan, read and make decision over a period of time. Project work carried out in small groups can enhance the development of collaboration skills, while that involving experimental investigations can help develop practical skills as well.

Searching and presenting information

Searching for information is an important skill to be developed in the information era.

Students can gather information from various sources such as books, magazines, scientific publications, newspapers, CD-ROMs and the Internet. Searching for information can cater for knowledge acquisition and informed judgements by students, but the activity should not just be limited to the collecting of information. Its selecting and categorizing and the presentation of findings should also be included.

Conclusions and interpretations

Include Ÿ analysis of

experimental results Ÿ evaluation of

predictions Ÿ explanation for

deviations from predictions

Scientific Principles


Ÿ generalisation of patterns and rules from conclusions and


Using Information technology (IT) for interactive learning

IT is a valuable tool for interactive learning, which complements the strategies of learning and teaching inside and outside the classroom. Teachers should select and use IT-based resources as appropriate to facilitate students’ learning. However, an improper use of IT might distract student attention, have little or no educational value and may sometimes cause annoyance.

There are numerous and growing opportunities to use IT in a science education. IT can help search, store, retrieve and present scientific information. Interactive computer-aided learning programmes can enhance the active participation of students in a learning process. A computer-based laboratory interface allows students to collect and analyse data, vary parameters, and find out mathematical relationships between variables. Simulation and modelling tools can be employed to effect exploratory and interactive learning processes.

Providing life-wide learning opportunities

A diversity of learning and teaching resources should be used appropriately to enhance the effectiveness of learning. Life-wide learning opportunities should be provided to widen the exposure of students to the scientific world. Examples of learning programmes serving this purpose include popular science lectures, debates and forums, field studies, museum visits, invention activities, science competitions, science projects and science exhibitions. Students with good abilities or a strong interest in science may need more challenging learning opportunities. These programmes can stretch students’ science capabilities and allow them to develop their full potential.


In document Membership of the CDC Ad Hoc Committee on the Revision of S4-5 Physics Curriculum (Page 48-53)

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