Introductory Physics for Life Sciences (IPLS) as a Diversity Course?

Is there a sense in which IPLS courses like Phys 131 and 132 here at UMass, are courses with diversity as a central component? A recent meeting of my Teaching for Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity Fellowship which had Including Aspects of Identity in Course Design as the theme, got me thinking about this question.

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Congratulations to Brokk Toggerson

Brokk Toggerson, along with Lara Al Hariri, Caleb Rounds, and Adena Calden have been awarded a Mutual Mentoring Grant by the UMass-Amherst Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development (TEFD) to develop a mutual mentoring network to connect the, predominantly junior, faculty who are responsible for teaching the introductory sequence of courses for life-science majors. This collaboration would be truly interdisciplinary connecting faculty from biology, chemistry, physics, math, and kinesiology. The mentoring network will strive to develop a curriculum that is aligned both in content and skills, thereby helping students develop the tools of knowledge transfer and interdisciplinary thinking critical for a modern workforce. In addition, the network will also share pedagogical best practices particular to large-enrollment STEM courses.

Congrats to the group!

Getting students to solve problems effectively

I just gave the second midterm in my P132 course covering physical/wave optics and electrostatics with a few questions on the previous material of quantum mechanics and geometric optics. One of the comments I often see when I ask students to reflect on their preparation is along the lines of, “I did all the extra practice problems but still did poorly on the exam.” When I ask these students one-on-one about their study habits, it seems that often,  while they do try every problem, their procedure when they get stuck is inefficient.

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