E-learning in teacher professional development in innovation and formative guidance on modern physics: the case of IDIFO Master’s Programs

Marisa Michelini, Lorenzo Santi, Alberto Stefanel


The professional development of in-service teachers is becoming an increasingly “hot” research topic internationally. Innovations in both methodologies and content are a challenge for schools wishing to respond to the demands of the knowledge society.
The second level biannual IDIFO Master’s Program, offered as project of the national plane for scientific degree (Piano Nazionale Lauree Scientifiche-PLS) by the Research Group in Physics Education of the University of Udine, in collaboration with 20 other Italian universities, provides teacher formation in modern physics and formative guidance to in-service teachers in Italian high schools and is now being run for the fourth time. Based on research into the teaching and learning of physics, it started in 2006 was activated in e-learning every second year. The course is wide-ranging (it is worth 165 CTS) and allows for customized study paths to suit the needs of individual participants, both regarding content and length of study period: single modules (worth 3 CTS) and an annual Specialization Course (15 CTS) are run alongside the Master’s. The organization of the e-learning formation, carried out using uPortal, is as follows: analysis of physics education research materials; web-forum discussions of content and methods; the compiling of teaching materials, both collaboratively and in personal project work; doing experimentations (teaching intervention modules) in high school students, analizing and discussing online with peers and with professors-tutors- experts. The program has undergone continual revisions - based on feed- back and reflection on the overall outcomes of the formation – while retaining its original structure. Analysis of project work and of the dissertations presented in the final exams has demonstrated the contribution of e-learning formation to capacity building through: access to research material and proposals; peer debate; a critical review of traditional approaches. The flexibility of the formative model is a key element for its implementation nationally in a wide variety of situations. The commitment required of the participants, particularly in the first two versions of the program, while resulting in an excellent preparation, also prompted the course designers to create more flexible study paths in order to allow participants to complete their training in a number of stages following coherent pathways. The educational research on the Master’s is not just a source of materials and training content, but also a context for what concern teacher formation. The analysis of participants’ learning processes in each module - like that on quantum mechanics – revealed both the characteristics of an effective educational innovation formative model, and the part played by peer interaction on web-forums in building participants’ integrated expertise both regarding content (CK) and its teaching/learning (PCK). An analysis of the school experiment written reports high-lighted the role of the Master formative path in the didactic design.


e-learning, formative guidance on physics, modern physics

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.20368/1971-8829/833

Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society | ISSN (online) 1971 - 8829 | ISSN (paper) 1826 - 6223 © 2017 Je-LKS - Italian e-Learning Association (SIe-L).