Example Clinical Observation Report

PHY 209 - Introduction to High School Physics Teaching

Physics Teacher Education Program

Illinois State University

Carl J. Wenning, Instructor


Name of Clinical Student: Terri Wilcoxson Teacher Observed: Kelly Ambruster

Date of Observation: September 17, 1998 School Site: Gallipolis High School

Times of Observation: 1:00 - 1:50 p.m. Class Observed: AP Physics

Duration of Observation: 50 minutes

Basis of Observation: INTASC Core Standard #1 -- The teacher understands the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the discipline(s) he or she teaches and can create learning experiences that make these aspects of subject matter meaningful for students.

Overview of Lesson: Ms. Ambruster began the class period by taking roll quickly and efficiently. She then asked students if they had any questions about the readings from last night. Following clarification of a few words used in the text, she moved on to ask a number of questions about electrostatics to see what students knew about it from both their reading and experiences. She then moved on to a series of desktop demonstrations. Ms. Ambruster rubbed an amber rod with a rabbit skin, and showed how he could charge pith balls; she then did this again with a piece of rayon (?) and a glass rod. Ms. Ambruster was able to show by bringing the charged rods into near contact with the pith balls that there were two types of charges, some combinations of which repelled one another, other combinations of which attracted one another. She also showed that the amount of charge could be quantified by using an electroscope. As Ms. Ambruster performed these demonstrations, she maintained a constant flow of questions to the students, eliciting their comments and suggestions. She asked the students to predict what would happen in one situation or another. Ms. Ambruster showed (quite to my amazement!) that different things can be used to produce static charges. She created a charge generating device (I don't know what it was called) made from aluminum foil, a piece of insulation, and a pie tin that really made the sparks fly. Near the end of the class she showed an electrostatic motor that turned when a student touching a running Van de Graff generator pointed at the motor. I still haven't figured this one out and none of the students in the class were able to do so either. Ms. Ambruster left the solution to the question to the students as a project.Students remained actively engaged throughout this lesson. Students were constantly asked questions relating to the various demonstrations that she presented.

Class Management: Ms. Ambruster had little trouble establishing and maintaining an excellent learning environment in her classroom. I believe that this was because she showed serious intent, expressed high expectations for her students, made the subject matter interesting and relevant, moved quickly from point to point, and kept the students actively engaged in the lesson. This left little free time for students to get into or cause trouble.




The teacher understands major concepts, assumptions, debates, processes of inquiry, and ways of knowing that are central to the discipline(s) s/he teaches.

None of the students ever contradicted Ms. Ambruster's explanations or questioned her logic. She seems to know what she is talking about. From what I know of electrostatics she was right on the money all the time. She was able to carry on an excellent discussion helping the students see not only that there were two types of charge, but how that is known.

The teacher understands how students' conceptual frameworks and their misconceptions for an area of knowledge can influence their learning.

Ms. Ambruster attempted to elicit student preconceptions when she started her questioning at the beginning of the class. She stated a number of things such as, "Is it true that like with force, there is only one type?" It appears as though she is using a constructivist approach in her teaching. Lots of good inquiry.

The teacher can relate his/her disciplinary knowledge to other subject areas.

At the very beginning Ms. Ambruster asked the students where they might encounter electrostatic examples. Students pointed out dragging feet on the carpet and getting a shock, but Ms. Ambruster added a few other examples students hadn't thought about. She related what happens to computers when they get "shocked."



The teacher realizes that subject matter knowledge is not a fixed body of facts but is complex and ever-evolving. S/he seeks to keep abreast of new ideas and understandings in the field.

It is hard to say anything about this given my limited observations.

The teacher appreciates multiple perspectives and conveys to learners how knowledge is developed from the vantage point of the knower.

This is something that "Miss A." did quite well. She asked for nearly every one's input, and asked the students to hypothesize about what might happen in certain situations. It was like she was doing real science experiments using guidance provided from student input.

The teacher has enthusiasm for the discipline(s) s/he teaches and sees connections to everyday life.

Miss A. really appears to enjoy her teaching, and her students as well. She took only one or two opportunities to explain how electrostatics affects one's life. She might have provided more and better examples.

The teacher is committed to continuous learning and engages in professional discourse about subject matter knowledge and children's learning of the discipline.

Hard to say given my limited observations. A good follow-up interview would be helpful in this area, but this clinical experience did not provide the opportunity to do so.



The teacher effectively uses multiple representations and explanations of disciplinary concepts that capture key ideas and link them to students' prior understandings.

This really wasn't done. Miss A. might have spent a little more time drawing the analogy between magnetic polarity and electrostatic charge.

The teacher can represent and use differing viewpoints, theories, "ways of knowing" and methods of inquiry in his/her teaching of subject matter concepts.

The teaching I observed was linear. Ms. Ambruster pretty much established the point that she wanted to make, and then moved on. There was little "verification" of the in-class demonstrations. She might have used a variety of experiments to make the same point a second way so that kids who missed it the first time might have gotten it the second time around.

The teacher can evaluate teaching resources and curriculum materials for their comprehensiveness, accuracy, and usefulness for representing particular ideas and concepts.

I can't say anything about this. Ms. Ambruster didn't teach out of the book like so many other teachers I've seen. I really liked that, and the students looked as though they did too.

The teacher engages students in generating knowledge and testing hypotheses according to the methods of inquiry and standards of evidence used in the discipline.

Miss A. did a great job with this. She used inquiry in her teaching practice. She told the students next to nothing; they had to figure it out using examples and experiments.

The teacher develops and uses curricula that encourage students to see, question, and interpret ideas from diverse perspectives.

From what I could tell, Miss A. has pretty much developed her own curriculum. She doesn't slavishly adhere to the textbook like so many other teachers do. Ms. Ambruster appears to be quite comfortable with inquiry in students are forced to see, question, and interpret things. She attempts to engage all students, and doesn't seem to teach just to the brightest students in the class.

The teacher can create interdisciplinary learning experiences that allow students to integrate knowledge, skills, and methods of inquiry from several subject areas.

Didn't see any of this.



Post-Class Assessment: Describe how well you feel the teacher modeled this Standard or Principle. Cite evidence from your observations to support your conclusion.

The indicators really seemed to help me understand the meaning of INTASC Core Standard #1. They also helped me to see that Ms. Ambruster does really well in this area of teaching expertise. Her use of inquiry practice in teaching the observed lesson showed that she does know her stuff, and is confident in that knowledge. She's not afraid to "go with the flow" as students suggest all sorts of experiments. When students appeared to be stumped, she would change her avenue of questioning. She also made every effort to engage all of her students, from the best and the brightest all the way to those who seemed disinterested. Her great teaching style didn't leave many disinterested students. I do think that she might be a better teacher in this area if only she would provide her students -- or better yet, ask her students -- to provide examples of where this information is meaningful or practical in their lives. It was sort of hard to assess the "dispositions," because some of these need to be addressed in some sort of post-class discussion with Miss A.

Application of Principle: Explain in your own words how this principle will be incorporated into your own teaching.

It is clear to me that I will really have to know my stuff when it comes to teaching. Not only is being able to do the problems important, I must also have a good conceptual understanding of physics. Not only will I need to know about physics, but I'll also have to understand its nature as well. A further understanding that I'll require will be how to teach physics in context, explaining its role in technology.