Natk4all, a great succes

/ July 5, 2016/ IMAU

About two years ago, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) has initiated an effort to reduce the ever growing shortage of high-school physics teachers. In this project, called “impuls lerarentekort”, or “natk4all”, nine technical/science universities, including Utrecht University, are working together to construct nine university-level physics courses for physics teachers, ranging from geophysics to quantum mechanics. The aim of natk4all is to improve the quality of the national postgraduate teacher training, and to update the skills and broaden the knowledge of current high-school physics teachers.

IMAU, represented by the undersigned, contributed to the course Geophysics in natk4all. Together with the Faculty of Geosciences we cover all earth-related processes, from atmosphere, ocean and climate to the earth’s crust, mantle and seismology. All natk4all courses are interactive, with work loads ranging from 3 ECTS (Geophysics) to 6 ECTS, the latter including an official exam at the end of the lecture series. Of the approximately 80 hours of work that the teachers are expected to invest, there are 10 contact hours (lectures). That means lots of self-study. The courses include online lecture series (including recordings of the natk4all lectures), interactive physics websites and challenging homework exercises.

natk4all_5

I myself presented two lectures about Atmosphere & Climate. Because in natk4all Geophysics is a non-mandatory course (in contrast to e.g. Quantum Mechanics), only five students attended, with a few more working from home. However, this made for a very interactive lecture with a lively atmosphere and lots of interesting questions. It was great fun to teach teachers that are truly interested to develop new skills, so they themselves will be able to better teach their high-school students. So hopefully natk4all will become a nice educational chain! As an educational tool, I recommend everybody that teaches Atmosphere & Climate related courses to use this interactive climate model website.

The final exam of the Geophysics course marked the end of the first year of natk4all. It has proven to be a great success: OCW has already decided to extend the funding to include 2017, and it is expected that funding will continue even further in the future. Hopefully it will help to reduce the shortage of physics teachers! A similar program is currently set up for computer science and chemistry.

For more information, please visit the natk4all website. We are open for suggestions to further improve the courses, e.g. physics applets, climate websites or other interactive applications.

Melchior van Wessem