A Resource for Using Real-World Examples in the Physics Classroom

by Janelle Van Dongen and Georg Rieger, published by the American Association of Physics Teachers in Feb 2013

Download the article (pdf, free); view the article online through AAPT (html, subscription required)

Physics Teaching for the 21st Century (:// is a free online resource for teachers who are interested in teaching physics concepts in real-world contexts. The materials on this site were developed by a team of physics faculty and graduate and undergraduate students at the Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of British Columbia, based on issues of great current concern—reusable energy, climate change, and medical advancement. Topics on the website also focus on applications of physics in the natural world around us. There are currently about 70 different topics on the website and it is not possible to justly give a sense of the website in total here. Instead we will present one complete example of the resources available on our website and show how it can be used in the classroom or in lecture. The example discussed here is suitable for a first-year university course and focuses on diffraction through a circular aperture and Rayleigh's resolution criterion by looking at the effect of pupil size on the minimum angle of resolution. The original idea came from reading a book on zoological physics, and a short example was later found in a first-year physics textbook.


by Brittany Tymos, PHYS 449 Honours Thesis

The degree to which students make connections between physics, their daily lives, and problems faced by society is not clear, but it is thought that by relating the teaching of physics to the real world, these connections will become explicit and students' interest in physics will increase. This study sought to uncover the barriers and impacts of connecting the curriculum to the real world in the context of Science 10, Physics 11 and 12 and introductory physics at post secondary institutions. Both qualitative and quantitative data were obtained from instructors in the form of surveys, focus groups and interviews. Upon establishing that conceptual understanding and connecting physics to the real world are important goals in physics teaching, it became evident that the development of resources that aim to accomplish these goals is worth pursuing. The instructors' opinions of the various topics and types of resources on the site were then compiled to make recommendations for improving teaching resources, especially those on the UBC Physics Outreach website. It is hoped that by implementing these recommendations, the resources will be more useful for teachers and appropriate for the contexts in which they are taught, and the connection between physics in the real world and physics taught in classrooms will increase.


by Janelle Van Dongen, PHYS 555 Directed Studies


a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

C21: Physics Teaching for the 21st Century
UBC Department of Physics & Astronomy
6224 Agricultural Road
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
Tel 604.822.3675
Fax 604.822.5324

Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC | © Copyright The University of British Columbia