The human brain is a byproduct of the natural process of evolution, as is the knowledge it contains. Like other natural resources fit for human consumption, knowledge can be modeled as a physical entity that can be sought after and acquired. In ancient times, knowledge was geographically constrained as a consequence of being a physical entity located inside the mind of an individual or in another physical form that could be transferred. These geographic constraints informed how education processes would evolve to satisfy relevant societal needs. The emergence of telecommunications technology in the second half of the 20th century have persistently eroded the legacy geographic constraints that have limited access to knowledge. The internet allows individual humans to access a seemingly infinite amount of information from nearly everywhere on the planet almost instantaneously. This unprecedented access disrupts legacy barriers to knowledge in the form of financial, cultural, or regulatory restrictions. Education processes optimized when access to knowledge was geographically constrained seem ill-suited for a modern ecosystem with ubiquitous access to global knowledge.
Many of the systems used in the global telecommunications network that serve a critical role in modern society have been developed using principles of modern physics. Unfortunately, the pre-college system used to educate the general public for labor force considerations have not yet incorporated modern physics concepts due to the clandestine nature in which early modern physics-based technology was developed. The gap between widespread utilization of these technologies and the lack of sufficient labor force training has created the need for a novel education methodology that can teach certain STEM fundamentals efficiently and effectively.
A novel framework for teaching modern physics fundamentals, referred to as Small-To-Big Physics has been developed. This novel framework is a combination of cognitive psychology theories coupled with a novel sequence of scientific theory introduction. The cognitive psychology portion of the framework informs how various scientific theories should be presented to students for the purpose of concept mastery. The scientific theory portion of the framework contains the minimally necessary concepts that will enable students to rapidly assimilate a broad range of STEM concepts in preparation for subsequent STEM careers.
The Small-To-Big Physics Framework was developed in various military, private sector engineering, pre-college, and college educational environments. To the maximum extent practicable, cognitive psychology theories were tested in real-world learning scenarios. Where appropriate, empirical guidelines were developed to inform educational methodologies in instances where existing theories were not able to achieve desired outcomes.
Experimental curricula developed using the Small-To-Big Physics Framework has been used in elementary and high school classrooms in New York and Connecticut respectively with overwhelmingly positive results. The feedback from those sessions has been useful in developing a long-term validation plan to incorporate Small-To-Big Physics methodologies into the existing education infrastructure. Several options for exploratory scientific research, identified using the Small-To-Big Physics methodology, have also been included for additional consideration.;
August 2022; School of Engineering
Dept. of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering;
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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