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I love working through the labs and the readings I liked how [ Waves and Applications for Teachers ] worked through the modeling curriculum and allowed us to see it from a student's perspective. The virtual labs were also quite helpful as getting good data with the real-time experiments can often be difficult or impossible if equipment is lacking. The video-based labs allowed me to focus on the phenomenon and the model.

I feel more confident teaching waves after taking this course. The order the material was organized in really did help develop the complexity of the topics and my thinking. I enjoyed the topics that were presented. I loved all of the PhET simulations and how they really helped me to visualize the material.

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I also loved that I was "forced" into some deeper thinking Really stretched my brain! Great organization - I really liked knowing what was due when and the routine of lab , reflective writing, and then post lab.. This course keeps you honest about what you know and can improve on regarding waves in the physics classroom.

I was able to modify much my wave curriculum to better support student learning after taking this course. Please watch this space for updates. This is one possible model. A cadre of highly qualified and highly trained high school teachers, the PTRA worked with colleagues from higher education to reach out to the majority of those teaching physics who did not have a background in physics. Prominent physicists from our universities and national laboratories have also become involved in local programs reaching out to high school teachers and students. Programs that provide research experiences for K teachers, such as NSF's Research Experiences for Teachers program, can be very effective.

They can convey the excitement of real research to teachers and, through them, to even larger numbers of students. All these programs require adequate release time for teachers to take full advantage of them. In the scientific community and in the leadership of many universities, there is growing concern about the decreasing numbers of students majoring in science. Seymour and Hewitt 1 have studied the reasons for the high. Seymour and N. Westview Press, Boulder, Colo. The attrition rate of greater than 60 percent for physical sciences is considerably higher than for any other major Figure 5.

They find no evidence that the students who switch to nonscience majors are less capable than those who do not switch or that inadequate high school preparation is a more serious concern for students who switch than for those who continue. However, a factor that does cause students to switch to other majors is the perception that these alternative majors provide a better education and are more intrinsically interesting.

It is notable that the factors causing women and ethnic minorities to switch out of pursuing science careers are similar to those motivating all students to switch, but the effect of these factors, and hence the attrition rates, seems to be magnified for these underrepresented groups. Physics is often singled out for particular criticism. Sheila Tobias documented how introductory physics courses deterred many who took them. She also recruited highly educated volunteers to take introductory physics courses and to report on their experiences.

She paints a compelling picture of introductory courses that do not encourage the further study of physics. Excellent introductory physics courses are important for all students, from those planning to become professional physicists to those majoring in the arts and humanities.

Lecture 1 - Modern Physics: Quantum Mechanics (Stanford)

Physics also plays a foundational role in the other fields of natural science. Even where the full rigor of physics is not applicable, the approach of physics to characterizing and analyzing problems can be very useful. Every field of natural science and engineering has made use of the instrumentation and experimental techniques developed by physicists; these techniques are an essential part of a physics education.

Over the past two decades, the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Physics, and the American Association of Physics Teachers, among others, devoted much attention to problems in introductory physics courses. Research in physics education began to demonstrate that students were not learning physics as well as had been hoped or expected. Many of the reports and projects began to call for revisions of the curriculum that would do the following:.

Introduce modern, topical physics earlier in the undergraduate curriculum. Make connections to other areas of science.

Why Do We Spend So Much Time Teaching Historical Physics?

Focus more on concepts and discovery rather than covering a prescribed set of topics. The approach gained momentum after the introduction of a test of the conceptual understanding of mechanics that became known as the Force Concept Inventory. This test and its successors allowed faculty to compare innova-. Research Corp. The results of these tests of physics learning often surprised physics faculty, who had assumed that students were learning far more than they actually did.

In the various interactive learning formats, the instructors often became aware of student difficulties that they had not observed in the less interactive lecture format. It was important to be able to document student performance in the traditional lecture courses so that student difficulties would not be erroneously attributed to the interactive formats.

What Teachers Are Saying About Next Generation Modeling Courses

The existence of a body of data covering students at quality institutions all across the country helped to set a baseline for evaluating the new programs. Introductory physics courses at the universities come in several varieties. One way to classify them is by the level of mathematical sophistication involved. Large universities often offer a spectrum of courses that can be characterized as follows: conceptual physics no mathematics or minimal mathematics , college physics trigonometry-based , and calculus-based university physics.

Introductory courses are sometimes tailored to the needs of different majors, with the predominant course of that kind being the engineering physics course. Other majors that are often addressed separately include the medical and life sciences, architecture, and the liberal arts. The diversity of offerings belies the similarity in content, coverage, and approach that characterized introductory physics education throughout the last century and up through the present. The texts for these introductory courses all tend to have much the same logical development and subject coverage and changed little over the course of the 20th century.

The IUPP focused on content, coverage, and order rather than on pedagogical approaches and alternative methods of organizing instruction. Efforts to include modern physics topics such as quantum mechanics, particle physics, and condensed matter physics were an important part of this project. An excellent example is Physics by Inquiry, a model developed by the University of Washington that has set a standard for others to aspire to.

This discovery-learning, research-based curriculum has gone through 20 years of development and testing. It guides students through the reason. A few generic models for active engagement classes follow, along with specific examples of courses:. Departments can begin to draw on this experience by determining what they want their courses to accomplish and critically evaluating whether or not they are achieving it.


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As part of this evaluation they could benchmark their introductory programs against the leading innovative programs and revise their offerings as appropriate. Questions that need to be answered include the following:. Are students actively engaged in doing physics rather than watching the instructor?

Do students in introductory courses gain an appreciation for physics as it is done today? Does the introductory course take advantage of the computing and communication tools available today? Do students leave the class with a sense of the excitement of physics, its connection to the other sciences, and how it applies to the world around them?

Do they consider further study? The committee believes that high-quality introductory courses are essential for creating a 21st-century workforce, for fostering scientific literacy, and for attracting and retaining talented American students to further study in physics. It is important for students to see how physics has contributed to the biomedical sciences and to the growth of information technology. Physics departments would do well to collaborate with their colleagues in other departments to encourage cross-disciplinary experiences and to implement minors and double majors that combine physics and biology, physics and computer science, physics and biomedical engineering, and other novel combinations.

The revolution in information technology and biotechnology has made thousands of scientists into entrepreneurs. For example, Jeff Kodosky, a physics major, cofounded National Instruments based on his vision for how physicists and other scientists should be able to interact with scientific instrumentation. In physics, teaching and learning flow from research. It is difficult to imagine a proper learning environment for physics students that does not give them extensive exposure to research and physicists engaged in research. These opportunities can be found at major facilities, research centers of various kinds, and research projects under the direction of single investigators.

This vision for undergraduate research experience can be more difficult to achieve in smaller liberal arts colleges, but there are indeed opportunities and outstanding examples. The Council for Undergraduate Research was formed specifically to encourage this activity at schools of all sizes. Research universities can, do, and should offer summer and other short-term research experiences to undergraduates from all institutions. Support for this activity can often be built in as supplements to research grants or as targeted funding programs from the NSF.

It can be a challenge to create experiences that benefit both the research effort and the student. Undergraduate students may not have the knowledge to contribute to some aspects of advanced research projects, and it may be difficult to identify tasks that would be meaningful for the project and the student, but physics departments should nonetheless assign a high priority to supporting and integrating students into research projects. The most important factor governing the future health of the nation's physics enterprise is the quality of the young people drawn to the field.

Why Do We Spend So Much Time Teaching Historical Physics?

The undergraduate years are a crucial time in the career paths of potential scientists: These years present the first opportunities for in-depth study that may influence career decisions, convincing potential scientists that the excitement of research and discovery is ample reward for the hard work that science requires. While there are many community efforts to enhance opportunities for undergraduate research, one of the most successful programs is that begun by the National Science Foundation a decade ago.

The NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates REU Program helps interested sites—university departments, government and industrial laboratories, and other research organizations—to recruit undergraduates to take part in individual research projects under the guidance of interested faculty and other senior researchers. The goals also include broadening the talent base in physics and other sciences: Many REU programs have succeeded in increasing participation by women and members of underrepresented minority groups.

REU research experiences can be particularly valuable for students coming from smaller colleges that lack the laboratory facilities of larger institutions. Several thousand students now participate in REU programs in mathematics, science, and engineering. The response by physicists has been particularly strong: More than sites have been created, providing undergraduate research positions each year. This represents an extraordinary effort by the site directors and the research advisors who give their time to these programs.

Most of the sites operate during the summer and provide stipends and housing support for aspiring scientists willing to trade their summer vacations for an opportunity to do research. They lead off with the full relativistic definition of momentum, and introduce energy in its full relativistic form, but both of those end up being just assertions that "This is the formula that gives the right answer, learn it and use it.

This sort of approach is not unpopular with many students, of course, those who view the more scientific to my mind historical approach as just a speed bump on the way to the formulae they need to memorize. Some of them, though, get badly hung up on the "why" behind those formulae, and those are often the best students in the class.