Curricula and materials

Here are research-based materials geared towards the introductory physics classes. These techniques may be applied to most classrooms.

Modeling Instruction

Modeling Instruction operate as a collaborative, studio-format, learning environment. Inquiry labs and activities focused on conceptual reasoning and problem solving are the primary vehicles through which models are built, validated, and extended. Several Modeling Instruction courses utilize Modeling Discourse Management, a technique for directing collaborative student-student scientific discourse. In Modeling Discourse Management, students work in small groups on activities designed to foster model building. Students share their ideas via portable whiteboards, coming together for student-driven discussions. The instructor’s role is then to moderate discussion and orchestrate appropriate activities for conceptual development. Modeling Instruction has been instrumental in improving conceptual development as measured by the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) and in developing scientific dispositions as measured by the Colorado Learning About Science Survey. The use of Modeling Discourse Management has cultivates a learning community by encouraging students to engage with each other and establishing patterns of scientific communication that students utilize in extra curricular interactions.

Activity-based Physics

From their website:

"Activity-Based Physics is a multi-university project to sustain and enhance current efforts to render introductory physics courses more effective and exciting at both the secondary and college level. This program represents a multi-university collaborative effort by a team of educational reformers to use the outcomes of physics education research along with flexible computer tools to promote activity-based models of physics instruction. This multifaceted program includes the refinement of existing written materials, apparatus, instructional techniques, and computer software and hardware; the creation of new instructional materials and approaches; and dissemination. The refinement and development of new instructional strategies and materials will be informed by a comprehensive program of classroom testing and educational research."

Materials:

  • Main site at Dickinson College
  • Also at Maryland's Physics Education Research Group’s website.

Cooperative Group Problem Solving

From their website:

"Students in introductory physics courses typically begin to solve a problem by plunging into the algebraic and numerical solution — they search for and manipulate equations, plugging numbers into the equations until they find a combination that yields an answer (e.g. the plug-and-chug strategy). They seldom use their conceptual knowledge of physics to qualitatively analyze the problem situation, nor do they systematically plan a solution before they begin numerical and algebraic manipulations of equations. When they arrive at an answer, they are usually satisfied — they rarely check to see if the answer makes sense.

To solve this dilemma, we (1) designed complex problems that discourage the use of plug-and-chug strategies, and (2) introduced cooperative group problem solving. Cooperative group problem solving has several advantages:

  1. The structured problem-solving strategy seems too long and complex to most students. Cooperative-group problem solving gives students a chance to practice the strategy until it becomes more natural.
  2. Groups can solve more complex problems than individuals, so students see the advantage of a logical problem-solving strategy early in the course.
  3. Each individual can practice the planning and monitoring skills they need to become good individual problem solvers.
  4. Students get practice developing and using the language of physics — "talking physics".
  5. In their discussion with each other, students must deal with and resolve their misconceptions.
  6. In subsequent, whole-class discussions of the problems, students are less intimidated because they are not answering as an individual, but as a group."

Materials:

  • U of Minnesota’s Cooperative Group Problem Solving materials

Just-in-Time Teaching

From their website:

"Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT for short) is a teaching and learning strategy based on the interaction between web-based study assignments and an active learner classroom. Students respond electronically to carefully constructed web-based assignments which are due shortly before class, and the instructor reads the student submissions "just-in-time" to adjust the classroom lesson to suit the students' needs. Thus, the heart of JiTT is the "feedback loop" formed by the students' outside-of-class preparation that fundamentally affects what happens during the subsequent in-class time together."

Materials:

Peer Instruction

From their website:

"Peer Instruction is a collaborative learning technique that differs from the traditional lecture method in several ways: it engages students, makes it possible for them to reach a deeper conceptual understanding of the material, and provides immediate feedback, allowing the instructor to tailor the class to the needs of the students."

"Peer Instruction is easy to implement in almost any subject and class. It doesn't require retooling of entire courses or curricula, or significant expenditures of time or money. All that is required is a collection of ConcepTests (available on Project Galileo) and a willingness to spend some of class time on student discussion."

Materials:

  • Peer Instruction website
  • Project Galileo website (materials)
  • E. Mazur, Peer Instruction: A Users Manual Prentice Hall (1997).

SCALE-UP

From their website:

"The primary goal of the Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) Project is to establish a highly collaborative, hands-on, computer-rich, interactive learning environment for large-enrollment courses."

"Educational research indicates that students should collaborate on interesting tasks and be deeply involved with the material they are studying. We promote active learning in a redesigned classroom of 100 students or more. (Of course, smaller classes can also benefit.) We believe the SCALE-UP Project has the potential to radically change the way large classes are taught at colleges and universities. The social interactions between students and with their teachers appears to be the "active ingredient" that make the approach work. As more and more instruction is handled virtually via technology, the relationship-building capability of brick and mortar institutions becomes even more important. The pedagogical methods and classroom management techniques we design and disseminate are general enough to be used in a wide variety of classes at many different types of colleges."

Materials:

Tutorials in Introductory Physics

From their website:

"Tutorials in Introductory Physics is a set of instructional materials intended to supplement the lectures and textbook of a standard introductory physics course. The emphasis in the tutorials is not on solving the standard quantitative problems found in traditional textbooks, but on the development of important physical concepts and scientific reasoning skills."

Materials:

Workshop Physics

From their website:

"Workshop Physics is one component of the Activity Based Physics Suite. It is a calculus-based introductory physics curriculum designed to completely replace traditional lectures and laboratories. In a typical two-hour Workshop Physics class session, students use equipment and computer tools for data acquisition, visualization, analysis, and mathematical modeling."

Materials:

  • Dickinson College site