High school physics teaching in Puerto Rico
Gonzalez-Espada, Wilson Javier
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The purpose of this study was (a) to examine whether Puerto Rican physics teachers used context and culture in their classroom despite the textbook’s origin (i.e. United States) and, if so, (b) to determine what factors influence the teachers’ decision to make their classes contextual and culturally relevant. This study was informed by a critical theory theoretical model and by a cultural relevance theoretical framework. The methodology of this study was mostly quantitative, although a qualitative component was included to complement the statistical analysis and provide valuable context. |The univariate tests found that: (a) difference in physics content presentation was statistically related to the teachers’ experience teaching physics, class size, and whether they believe they have the freedom to change their teaching methods, (b) difference in teaching methodologies was statistically related to gender and academic preparation in physics, and (c) the participants’ confidence in their physics knowledge was related to their academic preparation in physics. |The analysis of the short-answer questions revealed that: (a) most teachers are convinced that teaching physics with a contextual and culturally relevant emphasis can be done and might lead to better achievement by students; however some form of professional support is needed for those teachers that lack knowledge about the subject matter and of Puerto Rican history and culture, (b) most teachers are very critical of the textbook they are using because of translation, difficulty and relevance issues, and (c) the teachers’ view of the nature of science and their perception of the students inform their decision of supporting or rejecting contextual and culturally relevant perspectives. |The analysis of interviews provided additional evidence of how teachers made their content teaching culturally relevant and contextual and of their overall dislike for the text. Also, it was found that: (a) teachers’ perception of student apathy for the book (b) although there is a range of perspectives regarding both education and ideology among the teachers, there is a generally favorable recognition of the importance of including local culture and context in the physics curriculum by teachers from all political ideologies.