Palermo University, with two centuries of life behind it, is today a consolidated cultural, scientific, and didactic presence throughout central western Sicily. Articulated in 12 faculties and 80 departments, it covers the most important fields of contemporary scientific and technological knowledge. The courses currently offered consist of about 200 degree courses (first and second level) and some fifty Master's and specialization courses for the training of specific professional figures, often in association with companies and institutions. In addition to its didactic activity, University of Palermo conducts research activity that is continually growing, both in quality and in quantity: in 2006 approximately one hundred projects were recognized as begin of important national interest, while eighteen patents have already been taken out in the University's name. University of Palermo Physics Education Research Group (UoP_PERG), has a long time expertise in research in Physics Education and in pre-service and in-service physics teacher education. Research arguments developed by Uop_PERG include:
Use of modern Information Technologies (IT) in teaching/learning Physics: design and implementation of IT teaching/learning environments planned in order to improve the understanding of natural phenomena. These environments make use of (i) data collection and analysis systems, that allow students to take measurements and visualize results in real time. This systems can greatly help the user to find and represent the variables relevant for the description of the analysed phenomenon; (ii) modelling environments, making use of visual/iconic or algorithmic programming languages, that help to make clear the different phases of the modelling process and easily implement them.
Study of the learning of scientific concepts (conceptual nodes and cognitive problems). Analysis of spontaneous ideas part of the common knowledge of students at different schooling levels. Analysis of students’ ‘cognitive resources’ that can be usefully used in physics education. Study of conceptual ‘nodes’ typical of Physics. Experimentation of models for pre-service and in-service physics teacher education. Development of learning environments aimed at strengthening competencies integrating subject knowledge with pedagogical methods and strategies based on Research in Cognitive Sciences.
Role in the Project: UoP_PERG can contribute to the ESTABLISH project in several aspects. In particular, it has a long time expertise in the pedagogical use of Information Technologies, in projecting and experimenting teaching/learning sequences for primary and secondary schools and in arranging learning environments for pre-service and in-service physics teacher education aimed at addressing learning difficulties in Physics, known from Research in Cognitive Sciences. These environments are thought in order to make trainee/in-service teachers use the same learning environments they are supposed to use with their future/current pupils in order to obtain an effective learning and are aimed at strengthening competencies integrating subject knowledge with pedagogical methods and strategies based on Research.