The Physics Intervention Programme (PIP)

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This week, Ceri George contributes an interesting article that explains the rationale behind the Physics Department’s new intervention programme.

As a teacher of Physics, there are a number of rules and laws that regularly feature in my everyday life: the conservation of energy, Newton’s laws of motion, Einstein’s theory of relativity and – on a more frustrating level – that GCSE Physics can be pretty hard!

In actual fact, the last point is highly debatable; last year 47 WHS students attained an A* or A grade in GCSE Physics. However, I hold my hands up when I say that Physics is a bit of a “marmite” subject: results generally show that you either “get it” or you don’t.

The Physics Intervention Programme (PIP) is out to change that, along with the popular perception that achieving a positive grade in Physics is beyond the average student.

Based on Year 10 GCSE Core Science marks, we have selected 14 students who are currently underperforming in Physics based on their FFT and 3 LoP estimates, often doing worse in this area than in Biology or Chemistry. Coincidentally, 5 of them are PP students, fitting in with the current whole-school drive to enable such students to fulfil their potential and achieve in-line with their peers.

The PIP mainly revolves around a weekly session which is held by Nicola Lennon, an experienced Physics teacher within the department. Each Tuesday morning during registration, she meets the students and for 20 minutes they consolidate the Physics work they are currently doing in class. This might involve revisiting the theory behind some of the more difficult concepts, practising past paper questions, or simply discussing the underpinning ideas and key words in a topic and ironing out any misconceptions.

We have chosen to hold the sessions during morning registration as this is a constructive use of what is often seen as “dead time” by the students. We also felt that the students would be more likely to attend during official school time, as opposed to during their lunch break or after school.

It is hoped that by providing this additional lesson within a small group setting, we will eliminate any gaps in students’ knowledge and understanding, improve their examination technique and develop their confidence. For me, this latter point is key: if students think that they can “get” Physics, they are more open to learning. This means that they are more willing to develop their current knowledge and understanding, are not afraid of new topics and will persevere when they initially find an idea or question challenging. I mean, if you’ve conquered using Ohm’s Law, what have you possibly got to fear about F=ma?!

The big hope is that this new found confidence will then translate to the exam hall, as in my experience, if students walk into an exam confident that they can do well, largely, they will.

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