How to Teach, Inquiry-Style

Workshops and Presentations

  • To download the presentation PowerPoint and handouts, click on the presentation title!

  • Scientific Learning: A Revolution in Education, Science Teachers Association of Ontario Conference, November 10, 2017

    We live in an exciting time for teaching. Scientific research is providing educators with great insight into the physical and cognitive processes happening in our students’ brains while learning. This empirical perspective is the antidote to educational fads and is helping learning itself is becoming a science. In this presentation, Chris will take you on a tour of scientific learning that highlights four core ideas: (1) how the brain physically works while learning, (2) the role of emotion in the operation of the brain, (3) how students' prior knowledge can help or hinder learning, and (4) the role of the cognitive learning cycle for developing deep understanding. A scientific approach to learning will help teachers choose pedagogical techniques that best use the powerful learning engines all our students possess. Chris will share examples of the teaching practices from his school that are informed by the four core ideas and exemplify this scientific revolution for learning.
  • A Scientific Model for Learning, University of Saskatchewan, August 23, 2017

    Research in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and physics education are converging a set of common principles of human learning. In this presentation, Chris summarizes these bodies of research and proposes a unified scientific model of learning. He focuses on: 1) understanding how the brain physically works, (2) the role of emotion, (3) knowledge construction, and (4) the cognitive learning cycle. A scientific model can help researchers and educators better design and implement reformed teaching practices in many fields of study.
  • Four Presentations, OTF Summer Institute / OAPT Physics Camp 2017, Laurentian University, August 9-11, 2017

    At this year's Physics Camp, I gave four presentations or workshops. The materials for all of them can be downloaded from the link above.
    Scientific Learning: This presentations describes a summary of education research assembled as a potential model for human learning.
    How Science Works - The ISLE Method for Inquiry: Etkina and Van Heuvelen's approach for teaching scientific inquiry skills.
    The Challenges of Learning Freefall: Why do our students find freefall so challenging? What are some possible solutions?
    Assessment is Learning: How we assess defines the priorities and goals of the learning environments we create.
  • A Scientific Model for Learning, Invited Paper, Canadian Association of Physicists Congress, Queens University, May 30, 2017

    Research in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and physics education are converging a set of common principles of human learning. In this presentation, Chris summarizes these bodies of research and proposes a unified scientific model of learning. He focuses on: 1) understanding how the brain physically works, (2) the role of emotion, (3) knowledge construction, and (4) the cognitive learning cycle. A scientific model can help researchers and educators better design and implement reformed teaching practices and address long-standing diversity issues in the physics community.
  • Assessment is Learning, OAPT Conference, May 13, 2017

    For years I have been frustrated by the seeming failure of my students to improve. No matter how carefully I emphasized or harped on something, the results were always the same. Little did I realize the crucial role assessment plays in determining the behaviours my students choose and how assessment often worked against my teaching goals. Assessment learning because it sets the rules of the learning game. In this workshop I will share how I have changed assessment in my physics courses to promote productive student behaviours that focus on building skills and continuous improvement.
  • Harnessing Emotions to Help Students Learn, OAPT Conference, May 12, 2017

    Emotion is a powerful factor that affects the learning of our students, and yet it is often neglected in our daily teaching and course design. In this workshop, Chris will summarize the cognitive science research that helps us understand the role of emotion in our students' memory and motivation. He will also share examples from his classroom teaching where he designs lessons to harness the positive aspects emotion and helps students become more aware of their own emotional states. Remember: we don't teach physics, we teach human beings.
  • A Scientific Model for Learning, University of Toronto Department of Engineering, (April 7, 2017)

    Training in engineering involves more than transmitting content knowledge. We want students to learn the cognitive skills of the practicing engineer. This requires a cognitive apprenticeship. In this workshop, Chris shares research into the cognitive development of our students’ scientific understanding and the accompanying physical changes that take place in the brain. By creating a research-based learning environment, we can literally build better students and build better teachers. Chris will share four elements of a scientific model for learning: (1) how the brain physically works, (2) the role of emotion, (3) students' prior knowledge, and (4) the cognitive learning cycle. To help students learn as well as possible, teachers need to create learning environments that maximize the mental connections students make with scientific ideas.
  • A Scientific Model for Learning, Ryerson University Physics Colloquium (March 27, 2017)

    Research is providing great insight into the cognitive development of our students’ physics understanding and the accompanying physical changes that take place in the brain. As a result, pedagogical techniques have broken free from the traditions and fads of the past, and are becoming grounded in an empirical understanding of how humans learn. By creating a research-based learning environment, we can literally build better students and build better teachers. In this talk, Chris will share four principles of scientific learning: (1) understanding how the brain physically works, (2) the role of emotion, (3) students' prior knowledge, and (4) the cognitive learning cycle. To help students learn as well as possible, teachers need to create learning environments that maximize the mental connections students make with scientific ideas.
  • Scientific Teaching, Keynote Address (TDSB Eureka Science Teachers Conference, February 17, 2017)

    In this presentation, Chris shares four principles of scientific teaching: (1) understanding how the brain physically works, (2) the role of emotion, (3) students' prior knowledge, and (4) the cognitive learning cycle. To help students learn as well as possible, teachers need to create learning environments that maximize the mental connections students make with scientific ideas.
  • How Learning Works (OISE, January 30, 2017)

    In this workshop, Chris takes you on a tour of an emerging scientific model for learning. Educational research shows how three factors in humans: their emotional state, their prior knowledge, and their cognitive learning processes, all interact when we learn. Chris explores the implications of this model for teaching and provides examples from his classroom teaching.
  • Build a Better Student, Build a Better Teacher: Revolutions in Physics Education (University of Guelph Physics Department, January 24, 2017)

    We live in an exciting time for teaching physics. Over 30 years of education research by physics professionals is transforming physics teaching from a mystical art into a practical science. In the process, many educational myths have been successfully challenged. Research is providing great insight into the cognitive development of our students’ physics understanding and the accompanying physical changes that take place in the brain. As a result, pedagogical techniques have broken free from the traditions and fads of the past, and are now grounded in an empirical understanding of how humans learn. By creating a research-based learning environment, we can literally build better students and build better teachers. In this talk, Chris will share the key results from education research that inspired him to create a lecture-free high school physics program that is now spreading across Ontario.
  • Assessment in Science Education (TDSB Science CL Meeting: December 5, 2016)

    Our techniques for assessment have a great effect on the behaviours of our students. To promote behaviours that encourage deep understanding, collaboration, and a commitment to continuous improvement we need to change our traditional assessment techniques. In this presentation Chris describes the techniques of instant feedback quizzes, group work tests and exams, and skill reassessment tests.
  • Build a Better Student, Build a Better Teacher: Revolutions in Physics Education (McMaster University Physics Department, November 30, 2016)

    We live in an exciting time for teaching physics. Over 30 years of education research by physics professionals is transforming physics teaching from a mystical art into a practical science. In the process, many educational myths have been successfully challenged. Research is providing great insight into the cognitive development of our students’ physics understanding and the accompanying physical changes that take place in the brain. As a result, pedagogical techniques have broken free from the traditions and fads of the past, and are now grounded in an empirical understanding of how humans learn. By creating a research-based learning environment, we can literally build better students and build better teachers. In this talk, Chris will share the key results from education research that inspired him to create a lecture-free high school physics program that is now spreading across Ontario.
  • Motion: The BIG Picture (WNYPTA, June 4, 2016)

    Chris will lead you on a tour through the challenges and pitfalls of teaching motion including the language of motion, its conceptual foundation, and how robust problem solving techniques can be introduced while teaching motion. Leave with lots of ideas ready to use in your classroom next September! Chris will share some unique approaches to assessment, including a group work final exam.
  • Scientific Teaching (TOSCON Conference, May 27, 2016)

    Science education has been undergoing radical change over the past twenty years due to education research and insights into the psychology of learning. At York Mills Collegiate in Toronto, our science, chemistry and physics classes are built around guided-inquiry activities and cooperative group learning. Students are active learners as they explore ideas, explain to one another, and write in their own words about their understanding. This represents a major shift to student-generated discussion and a focus on language. In this workshop, Chris Meyer will share the strategies we use to get students engaged, talking, and writing about their scientific ideas.
  • Gender and Physics (OAPT Conference, May 13, 2016)

    Achieving gender equity is a long-standing challenge in physics. Despite much improvement in physics pedagogy over the last twenty years, females still make up a small proportion of physics students. In this workshop, Chris will share with you the latest results and insights from physics education research and his own teaching.
  • Motion: The BIG Picture (OAPT Conference, May 14, 2016)

    Are you new to physics teaching? Or are you a veteran teacher looking for some new ideas? In this workshop Chris will lead you on a whirlwind tour through the challenges and pitfalls of teaching motion. Learn about the language of motion, its conceptual foundation, robust problem solving techniques and leave with lots of activities and ideas ready to use in your classroom.
  • Mythbusters: The Education Edition (OISE Chemistry/Physics Class, December 4, 2015)

    There are many myths about what teaching is and how teachers should teach. In this workshop, Chris and his mythbusting team examine these myths and get to the bottom of what teaching is most effective and why.
  • Electricity Through Inquiry and Simulations (STAO Conference, November 13, 2015)

    Use cooperative groups and inquiry-based learning to teach the fundamentals of electric circuits and static electricity. Explore an excellent circuit simulation applet to replace all those dead bulbs and batteries!
  • Mastering Static Electicity (TAPT Meeting, September 30, 2015)

    Does static electricity have you perplexed? Boost your confidence and improve your understanding of this fascinating and shocking (couldn't resist) topic, which is the foundation for our understanding of current electricity. Join Chris Meyer at York Mills C. I. for an after school session full of hands-on exploration. You will work through an inquiry-based lesson on the fundamentals of static electricity and build your understanding of how charges behave in solid matter. The lesson helps target common student (and teacher!) misconceptions and will be of particular interest to teachers of grade 9 science and grade 12 physics who would like to polish their skills. The session will also give you lots of ideas for activities to use with your students.
  • Growth Mindset Academic Orientation (York Mills C.I., September 11, 2015)

    This workshop introduced the growth mindset to the freshman class at my high school. Psychological interventions pioneered by Carol Dweck at Standford University have shown that training students in the growth mindset (our brains grow smarter with careful practice) results in improved academic performace by at-risk students and greater rates of course completion.This workshop is my version of the activities used by Dweck and was presented by twelve different teachers to each of our grade 10 homeform classrooms.
  • Growth Mindset (York Mills C.I., May 13, 2015)

    How can we teach our students to persevere in the face of challenges and pick themselves up after failures? Help them learn about the nature of intelligence and develop a growth mindset.
  • 21st Century Skills for Success Beyond High School (OAPT Conference, May 8, 2015)

    How can we best prepare our students for life beyond our classroom? A major improvement in physics education has been the transition to inquiry-based teaching, but this involves much more than just a different kind of lesson. It requires a shift in our understanding of what is valuable to teach and what our goals of teaching are. The learning environment we create and the ways in which we assess our students will either support or quash these goals. Join Chris in an exploration of 21st century skills in the physics classroom and learn how to support and nurture skill growth, while your students build a deep understanding of physics.
  • Teaching: What I Have Learned (Emery Adult Learning Centre, April 23, 2015)

    Education research provides us with many insights for how we can improve our teaching: don't lecture, use active learning and structured groups, focus on higher-order thinking and use delibrate practice.
  • Groups Work - Encouraging 21st Century Skills in the Science Classroom (TDSB Exploration Classroom, April 13, 2015)

    Success in our modern world will require future citizens to do more than pass tests and write reports. Educators and industry are encouraging the development of the much-ballyhooed "21st Century Skills": communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. How do we do this in our science classrooms when we have so much to teach? The answer is group work. Join Chris Meyer from York Mills C. I. in a workshop and classroom observation that will help you explore the implementation of group work and the creation of a classroom culture where the 21st century skills are part of every day’s routine. You will learn about the fundamentals of successful group work and see its integration from the first day of a course up to and including the final exam (recorded on video!).
  • Don't just teach science - teach scientifically (TAPT Meeting, March 25, 2015)

    We are the midst of a "scientific revolution" for teaching. Insight from education research is becoming the guiding light for teaching rather than tradition and gut feelings. Learn how this new understanding of teaching can transform our traditional lessons and create a rich learning environment for our students. Chris will share his own journey from traditional to scientifically informed teaching and explain how education research has improved many aspects of his traditional lessons. While the examples are from his physics classes, the ideas and discussions in this workshop would be valuable for any science and math teacher.
  • How We Learned to Teach Better (TDSB Eureka Science Teachers Conference, Feb. 13, 2015)

    As teachers of science, we should use science to help us design and improve our teaching practices. Join Mike and Chris, two teachers from York Mills C. I., as they share their experiences using the latest in STEM education research to fundamentally change the way they teach science. Learn about their shift from traditional to inquiry-based teaching, and from teacher-centred to group-focused learning. Explore how you could use these ideas in your classroom when you return on Monday!
  • STEM Problem Solving (TDSB Eureka Science Teachers Conference, Feb. 13, 2015)
    Problem solving is something we all wish our students did better. However, there are many necessary skills that are simply not taught or that are assumed students will naturally “pick-up on” when taught using traditional methods. In this session, Chris will share what research in STEM education tells us about problem solving and some of the strategies he uses in his classroom.
  • How I Learned to Teach Better (OISE Physics Candidate Teachers, October 17, 2014)
    Our students need a new set of skills to succeed in the 21st century as educated citizens and members of a techological workforce. Education research strongly supports the benefit of active learning techniques in deceasing failure rates and improving understanding. In this workshop, I share how research has inspired me to dramatically change how I teach and transform the learning environment of my classroom.
  • STEM Problem Solving (OAPT Conference, May 2014)
    Problem solving is something we all wish our students did better. However, there are many necessary skills that are simply not taught or that are assumed students will naturally “pick-up on” when taught using traditional methods. In this session, Chris Meyer will present his version of the Cooperative Group Problem Solving (CGPS) process that combines measuring, planning, explaining, and predicting along with an engaging engineering challenge. Talk about STEM bang for the buck!
  • Represent! Multiple Representations as the Key to Deep Understanding (OAPT Conference, May 2014)
    Visual representations of physics concepts provide a powerful tool for building deep understanding. Representations can serve as a vital intermediary between the abstract concepts and the mathematical equations that help students to clearly reason before calculating. Tim and Chris will guide you through the world of interaction diagrams, energy flow diagrams, work-energy bar charts, impulse-momentum bar charts and many more representational tools. In this workshop you will deepen your own understanding of motion, forces, energy and momentum and leave with well-researched and tested lessons to train your students.
  • Inquiry in Science (York Mills C.I., March 25, 2014)
    What is inquiry? How can we use inquiry to help students acquire the skills of practicing scientists? This presentation covers the basics of inquiry and delves into the deeper cognitive psychology that makes it successful.
  • Girls and Physics (TAPT, December 4, 2013)
    Girls are underrepresented in physics at almost all levels of study and practice. Many fields have closed the gender gap in recent decades but physics has seen limited progress. Chandra Boone, physics teacher at Branksome Hall, will explain Carol Dweck’s Mindset framework and the importance of teaching a growth mindset to girls as a component of physics pedagogy. Chris Meyer will summarize his own research into physics and gender as well as report on the latest research from across North America. Finally, Roberta Tevlin will share her success in boosting the number of girls entering Danforth Tech's enriched MaST (Math, Science, Technology) program. Please bring your thoughts, ideas, stories and experiences to share - we hope to have a great discussion.
  • Guided-Inquiry for Secondary Science (CLC, November 20, 2013)
    Complete set of electronic resources from the guided-inquiry workshop run by Leesa Blake, Frank de Leo and Chris Meyer.
  • How to Become a Master Teacher (OISE, September 27, 2013)
    What is the route to teaching mastery? Find out what's involved through an examination of Newton's 3rd law. You will never look at this law the same way again! Gain a deep appreciation for pedagogical content knowledge that you never thought was possible.
  • Tools for Teaching Energy (Toronto Association of Physics Teachers, September 25, 2013)
    Chris will introduce you to energy flow diagrams and bar charts - powerful tools that will help your students effectively picture and conceptualize energy. These tools are great not just for gr. 11 and 12 physics, but any course where you discuss energy (chemists? biologists? are you listening?) Along the way he will help you to rebuild and restructure how you think about energy according to the latest in physics education research.
  • Demonstrations: Entertainment or Education? (Toronto Physics Teachers Alliance, May 22, 2013)
    How do we best use demos in the physics classroom? Do we want the whiz-bang or the hmmm....? Roberta and Chris lead the demo show with a few of their favourites and provide some background on effective demonstrations. Please bring your own demos along to share with everyone and we will have some great discussions.
  • Keynote Address (OAPT Conference, May 3 2013)
    This year we shift the keynote focus to provide examples of how OAPT members have turned PER research into practice in their high school classrooms. Dave Doucette will elaborate on Carl Weiman's rationale for change, Glenn Wagner will demonstrate techniques to achieve this change, and Chris Meyer will reveal how change has played out in his physics classrooms. The vision they outline will provide a framework for the PER workshops led by these three and many others. This conference will ensure our OAPT membership remains solidly on the crest of this reform wave.
  • Physics: The Greatest Story That Can't Be Told (OAPT Conference, May 4, 2013)
    As teachers we cannot simply tell the story of physics and expect students to "get it". Physics students must construct their own knowledge and relive the story of physics for themselves in order to build real understanding. Join Chris Meyer and Dave Doucette as they share their techniques for helping students do exactly that. In this workshop you will experience a day in Chris's reformed physics classroom - a lecture-free, group working hive of activity - as you tackle the topic of circular motion. Dave will lend his expertise in psychology and brain-based learning to help adapt your teaching to the way real brains actually work. You will leave this workshop with all the materials you need to begin reformed physics teaching the Monday you return to school!
  • Teaching Forces PERsuasively (OAPT Conference, May 3, 2013)
    Forces are our bread and butter, but is your bread getting a bit stale? Chris will help you teach forces using the latest techniques brought to you courtesy of Physics Education Research. A deep conceptual approach to learning forces through inquiry requires a rewriting of our traditional recipes to add in all sorts of new flavours. Come and enjoy the new education taste sensation! When you leave, you will be armed with all the resources you need to dramatically boost your students' appetite for forces.
  • Fields by Inquiry: Physics Teachers Alliance, Toronto, December 2012
    Are you lost in the fields? Learn how to tackle this challenging unit the inquiry way! Find out how to turn your class into a hive of group-working activity using Chris's newly developed unit. After a quick introduction to teaching without lectures, you will get started exploring this topic and trying out the activities and investigations. You will leave with resources at hand (and online) that will allow you to start teaching fields the very next day (or once you track down your ebonite rods)! This topic is foundational for electrical engineering and biochemistry, so it's time we give fields their due. No more wandering!
  • Problem-Based Learning: October 2013
    How to use problems to motivate learning and reinforce connections with physical reality.
  • OISE Physics Class: October 2012
    "Reformed Physics Teaching" and "Understanding Forces"
  • Technology in the Physics Classroom - May 2012
    How do we encourage the adoption of technology in the physics classroom? Through the combinination of good technology, pedagogy and subject knowledge. This presentation provides examples of my use and data supporting its success.
  • Cooperative Group Learning - Experience the Difference - April 2012
    An introduction to teaching physics by inquiry through the topic of circular motion. What does an inquiry class look like? How does an inquiry course run? What makes an inquiry investigation work? Find out here! Presented at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
  • Circular Motion by Inquiry (TDSB Demo Classroom) - April 2012
    An introduction to teaching physics by inquiry through the topic of circular motion. What does an inquiry class look like? How does an inquiry course run? What makes an inquiry investigation work? Find out here!
  • Stop Teaching! - February 2012
    Stop Teaching! A Sample of a Gr. 11 Inquiry-based Physics Program. Presented to the TDSB Eureka Science Teachers Conference
  • Electricity by Inquiry - February 2012
    Electricity by Inquiry, A Sample of a Gr. 11 Inquiry-based Physics Program. Presented to the Physics Teachers Alliance of Toronto
  • OISE Physics Class - December 2011
    Two presentations: "Stop Teaching!" and "Cooperative Group Problem Solving"
  • OAPT Presentations - May 2011
    "My Experiments with PER", and "The Physics Challenge - Cooperative Group Problem Solving". Presented May 13 & 14, 2011
  • TDSB Demonstration Classroom - March 2011
    "How to Build an Active-Learning Physics Course", and "Cooperative Group Problem Solving". Presented March 22, 2011
  • TDSB Eureka Presentation - February 2011
    Tired of lecturing? Students inert? It's time to change how physics is taught. This presentation will help you transform your physics classroom into an inquiry-based, group-working hive of activity. February 18, 2011
  • Reformed Science Education
    How do you to begin reforming your biology and chemistry classes using active-learning methods? Find out! Presented to the Bishop Strachan Science Department, Nov 23, 2010.
  • How to Build an Active Learning Course
    What are the changes and challanges required to transform your teaching practise from lecture-based to active-learning group work? Presented to the Physics Teachers Alliance, Oct 20, 2010.
  • My Experiments with PER
    A presentation outlining the design of my reformed Gr. 12 physics course which has been redesigned with the help of Physics Education Research. Lectures are eliminated and students work in groups on inquiry-based activites and problem solving challenges.

Pedagogical Articles

My most recent articles are appearing in the new OAPT newsletter blog. Check it out!

  • Teaching Forces Persuasively Part II: Laying Down the Laws
    Newton's Three Laws of Motion are conceptually rich and challengin for students to learn. Carefully breaking down these laws into digestible portions and challenging students to examine these portions carefully will greatly aid their understanding.
  • Teaching Forces Persuasively: Interactions
    The idea of interactions is fundamental to physics and provides an excellent foundation for the study of forces. Learn how this idea will deepen students' understanding through the use of interaction diagrams. From the OAPT Newsletter, September 2013.
  • Nature: Judge, Jury and ...
    A new model for learning? Nature-centred education. From the OAPT Newsletter, March 2012.
  • Homework Problems and Problems with Homework
    How can you make homework more effective? Read on! From the OAPT Newsletter, December 2012
    Files: Problems with Homework
  • Fixing Our Physics: Circular Motion
    From the OAPT Newsletter, June 2012.
    Files: Circular Motion
  • Equipping the Inquiry Classroom
    What makes an inquiry class work? In part, it is the physical design of your classroom - both seating and equipment. Good design will encourage the attitudes and skills that inquiry thrives on. From the OAPT Newsletter, April 2012.
    Files: Equipping the Classroom
  • The Myth of the Great Teacher
    Your students can achieve learning gains that the greatest lecturers would envy. Good pedagogy trumps razzle-dazzle! From the OAPT Newsletter, February 2012.
  • To Improve, We Must Measure
    The quality of our instruction should be quantitatively tracked and carefully examined to help us as teachers learn how to teach better. I present data from my Gr. 12 physics class. From the OAPT Newsletter, September 2011.
  • The Argument for Change
    Why change? The research confronts us with compelling reasons for change. While there are many challenges, there are also many solutions! From the OAPT Newsletter, April 2011.
  • A Solution to the Problem Solving Problem
    We all wish our students were better at problem solving, but how do we get them there? I present a solution my students know as "The Physics Challenge" which is based on the Cooperative Group Problem Solving work of Ken and Pat Heller from the University of Minnesota. From the OAPT Newsletter, February 2011.
  • Making Groups Work
    How do we train students how to work well in groups? Most of us teachers have very little training ourselves. and don't have the tools or techniques to help students overcome their often justified resistance to regular group work. This articles from the November issue of the OAPT newsletter offers some strategies and materials.
  • My Experiments with PER
    For two years I have been experimenting with a new model of physics teaching - lectures are eliminated, students work each class in groups using materials borrowed from or modelled on the products of Physics Education Research. This article provides an overview of my reformed Gr. 12 physics course. From the September 2010 issue of the OAPT newsletter.