Our Courses

Below are links to additional information on the different courses on which we are working. We have been working on these courses for a few semesters and feel that they are somewhat well developed. The pages linked to below contain instructions on how to get full course materials that we feel are ready for use.

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P131 is our first semester of introductory physics for life science students (IPLS) 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 not enter 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.

A large lecture hall that provides the teaching environment for P132P132:

P132 is the second course in the introductory physics for life-science sequence. This course also uses a flipped pedagogy with an opt-in team based learning style. These modifications are based upon the fact that 132, unlike 131, is taught in a large 300-person lecture hall which is ill-suited to TBL. 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. Moreover, this course has an independent lab, which, while still under some development, centers on developing general data analysis skills useful for any scientist.


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.


Graduate Teaching Assistants play a critical role in all large-enrollment courses taught a UMass-Amherst. The 1-credit P691G, in conjunction with two sessions during new graduate student orientation, aims to use TA-training to facilitate the transition from undergraduate to graduate student. The course explicitly explores the changes in self-identity that occur during this time and introduces some of the basic principles of good teaching practice. We also explore issues of identity and professional development skills such as time management and giving presentations.