Below are links to additional information on the different courses on which we are working. The courses are grouped into three different categories based upon their stage of development:
- Mature Courses: We have been working on these courses for a few semesters and feel that they are somewhat well developed. For these courses, the pages linked to below contain instructions on how to get full course materials that we feel are ready for use.
- Courses in Mid-Development: These courses are in a middle stage of development. The goals, objectives, and structure, have mostly stabilized and the activities are beginning to be refined. For these courses, there are links to pages with more detailed information, and we are happy to share materials for those who are really interested in the development.
P131 is the most fully developed course on which we have worked and serves a large segment of the student population at UMass. Over the two semesters in an average year, more than 1000 students pass through the course. Perhaps more importantly, however, P131 and the subsequent P132 are the only two physics courses that many of these students will ever take and most students do notenter the course with a positive impression of the discipline of physics. Thus, these two courses must critically be well thought-out and effective. We think that the Team-Based-Learning (TBL) environment is the best way to both make the most of this limited time and to positively change our students’ attitudes towards physics.
P361 meets a need of P131. One of the challenges of running a successful TBL version of P131 involves personnel. In order for the students to receive the immediate feedback necessary to make the system work, there needs to be a minimum student:staff ratio of about 20:1. There are not enough graduate student TA resources to meet this demand. Fortunately, undergraduate physics majors, being nearer-peers to the P131 students excel in providing such feedback. Moreover, there is a significant demand from students for an experience that provides insight into physics education.
P132 is the second course in the introductory physics for life-science sequence. While we are in the process of figuring out the logistics of how to make this course TBL, this course is, unlike P131, currently being taught in a large lecture hall with an independent lab section. We are currently exploring the best active learning techniques for this space that are consistent with our goals. One idea being explored is the use of Twitter to provide a forum for back-channel discussion within the large lecture hall. You can see the course Twitter page from the Spring 2017 semester at http://twitter.com/UmassP132. Currently, this course is centered on the big question of “What is light? What is an electron?” and introduces quantum mechanics, optics, and electricity and magnetism.
Graduate Teaching Assistants play a critical role in all large-enrollment courses taught a UMass-Amherst. We are currently designing a 1-credit seminar for first-semester graduate students to help train and professionalize our graduate teaching assistants. Hopefully, this course will be run for the first time in Fall 2017.