Meanings of Learning in Physics

Adam Johnston
Department of Physics
Weber State University

What does it mean to learn?  Perhaps our most traditional view of learning is based on models of knowledge acquisition, in which the human psyche has been likened to a storage device modeled after computers.  Yet "learning" often is much more than a simple storage process.  Especially in physics and other sciences, to learn something could actually mean that we need to get rid of old ideas (like the misconception that motion requires a force), be able to solve problems (like end of chapter exercises), be able to create something new (like beer!),  to change a disposition towards science, to transform one's identity, to begin to think like a scientist, and many other examples.  This presentation considers our traditional views of learning in contrast to those revealed in recent science education research and suggests how this might inform classrooms at all levels.