Hopefully this post will conclude the Maori learning themed weekend. It is an area of great interest to me, but honestly I have no idea what I am talking about, and neither experience nor theory upon which to draw to inform my opinions. But anyway.
I was thinking about culture in Physics. Acknowledging that there is a culture in Physics to get used to is, I think, an important first step. It is important to do this because we run the risk of excluding those students who do not feel included in what's going on. Students should feel like they are in the midst of Science, part of the process. even if they are struggling, rather than outsiders looking in. How might we include students so that they feel part of the process of Physics, rather than a passive audience?
I think that emphasising the skills of Physics is important. By practising skills rather than trying to grasp concepts. students can learn what it is like to do science as well as understand it. A common complaint from the few schools I have been in is that it simply takes too much time to do experiments, time required to go over the important concepts in class. But this just means replacing skills with concepts again, an approach which alienates those who can't immediately grasp the important ideas. A shift in thinking is required, from lecture based (or near enough) concept transmission to open inquiry and skills.
A lot of good thinking has gone into Maori achievement in Science, but not a lot into Physics in particular. I think this is because Physics is simply not very popular with Maori students, who elect not to take the subject (tried looking for proper statistics but now I only have 3 minutes left - I'll edit in later). This is seen by those I have talked to as a reason not to worry about Maori success at all. I see it as part of the problem. Rather than being pleased enough with not needing to worry about targeted learners, Physics teachers need to think about how to make their subject more appealing to a broader profile of learners. This is not only an ethical concern - we should be making our subject accessible to everyone as a matter of course - but we should also be ready to accept other views and cultures which can enrich our subject. My hope is that the cross-curricular learning at HPSS will help with this, and one day provide me with further insight which can enrich my own practise.