The Nuffield Science Teaching Project began in 1962. One of the first problems tackled by the project was the teaching of O-level biology, chemistry and physics. Nuffield Physics was planned as a five-year programme up to the age of 16. The project team produced a Teachers’ Guide, Guide to Experiments and a Question book for each year of the course.
The General Introduction to the course as a whole was included at the start of both Teachers’ Guide I and Teachers’ Guide III because these were the two years that offered possible starting points for the course.. The General Introduction was written for two purposes: first, to set the scene for the course as a whole, by providing a brief historical background to its development, and a discussion of its main aims; and second, to assemble the notes to teachers on those themes which were relevant to more than one year of the course.
Teaching for understanding
Teaching for understanding was central to the Nuffield Physics ideology. Appendix 1 to the General Introduction is an explanation by Professor E M Rogers of the rationale for the approach adopted by the development team.
Practical work by students was of critical importance to the approach to teaching and learning adopted by Nuffield Physics. Many new experiments and types of apparatus were introduced into schools by the course. As well as the Guides to Experiments for each year of the course, the project published a Guide to Apparatus.
The Nuffield Physics team gave much thought to the methods of assessment that could help to encourage the approach to teaching and learning proposed for the course. Appendix 2 to the General Introduction is an account by Professor E M Rogers of some of the issues that the team took into account when planning assessment – and what it means to examine for understanding. The appendix ends with some specimen questions. The course team also published a book about tests and examinations with sample questions and tests for assessments in school.
Nuffield Physics Year I was planned to be a year of gaining acquaintance with materials and their properties and behaviour, and instruments, and the way in which scientists do things, and just a little of the way in which scientists talk. It was intended as a year of seeing and doing, with very little to be learnt...
The second year of the Nuffield Physics course was designed to be a year of growing acquaintance with physical phenomena and some more instruments. There was a little more emphasis on organizing the knowledge in a scientific way - by looking for general rules of behaviour and by using imaginative models.
In this year of the Nuffield Physics course, students were encouraged to become more mature scientists by trying to extract some general rules from experiments. There was more emphasis on generalising and abstracting than in the previous two years – leading to an introduction to more formal explanations of observed...
Year IV of Nuffield Physics was seen by the authors as a stage for more serious and thorough study - still with enjoyment and delight, but now with more reasoning and coordinating thinking. It was to be a year of learning to 'make a noise like a physicist', as Rutherford once put it.