As we near the end of the semester, Physics 131 is once again finishing up with a unit on the statistical interpretation of entropy (not a typical topic for an introductory algebra-based course). This unit gets started with two labs: one systematically playing the famous Monty Hall problem and a second models the free expansion/compression of a gas using coins. While I do not have strong evidence for this belief, I feel that these two labs are the strongest two labs we do all semester. Students seem to really engage with these two labs and the act of doing the experiments really seems to add to student understanding in ways I do not see with other labs in the course. Even our much celebrated lab investigating the bio-mechanical ground-reaction forces of the human jump doesn’t seem to engage our students as much. Why? What is the “magic sauce” of these two labs? How can we modify the other labs of the course to achieve these same ends?
Brokk Toggerson has been nominated for another distinguished teaching award for the Fall 2018 semester, his 5th in 7 semesters. The Distinguished Teaching Award is the only award at UMass for teaching that is exclusively begun by student nominations.
Congratulations to Brokk Toggerson!
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.
Brokk Toggerson, Chris Ertl, David Nguyen, and Jake Shechter are currently presenting their work at the AAPT Summer 2018 Meeting in Washington, DC.
Chris Ertl, is presenting on the fully-online labs he has been developing for the online versions of Physics 131 and 132.
Jake Shecter is presenting on Physics 691 on Graduate TA Training and Professionalization.
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 .