Brokk’s reflections on AAPT Summer Meeting 2018

During my AAPT SM18 experience, I focused on presentations and posters from three main areas in which I have deep personal interest: IPLS/curriculum development, diversity/equity in physics, and self-efficacy/attitudes. In addition, I attended several sessions related to areas of interest for our department, specifically on integrating computation through the curriculum. In this post, I will synthesize and reflect on my take-aways from the conference. I saw a lot of good talks. As such, this post is somewhat long.

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Plans for P131

In the development of Physics 131, we have been working backwards: refining the course starting with the last unit on entropy and then moving towards the start of the semester. Due to this approach, our first two units on the mathematical foundations of physics and forces are now our weakest two units. Moreover, Unit 3 – Forces and… covers a LOT of material: impulse, work, and torque. One of our (many!) goals for the summer is then to revamp these first two units – hopefully making the labs a more valuable experience at the same time. One of the big guiding principles of this revamp is to use the idea of expansive framing described in Engle et al [1].

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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!

An observation regarding instructional goals in P132

As I am going through teaching P132 – Introductory Physics II: What is an electron? What is light? I have noticed a good instructional goal that I did not consider back at the beginning of the semester when I was first planning out the course: developing an appreciation that nonsensical mathematical results can still possess physical meaning. In P132, there are several topics where the formulae can give nonsense answers. Two more straight-forward examples include Snell’s Law n1 sin θ1 = n2 sin θ2 and quantization conditions requiring integers.

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