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.
Well a new semester has begun at UMass-Amherst, and the group has lots of interesting new projects!
This semester, Brokk Toggerson has been nominated for the UMass distinguished teaching award for the second year in a row. The distinguished teaching award is only awarded to one faculty member each year, can only be won once in a lifetime, and is the only teaching award at UMass for which students are the only possible nominators. Heath Hatch, another of the P131 team, has already won this award.
As we wrap up another semester, I am, as is usual for this time of year, thinking about what went wrong and what went right this past semester. I will say that a lot of things have gone very well this semester. My students have exceeded my expectations which is a great feeling. I have even checked with colleagues to see that my expectations have not been slowly changing to “easier” over time. Now, if I could just figure out what we did right so we could replicate it…
One thing that continues to be at the forefront of teaching in a class of 6 sections, 3 instructors, 16 graduate-student TAs, 2 undergraduate graders, 1 undergraduate Supplemental Instruction leader, and 2 undergraduate ExSEL program tutors is keeping everyone on the same page and focused on the same goal – all while not micromanaging.
One of the reasons that I love this work is that I am continually learning. My students are always forcing me to thing about physics more deeply and in new ways. In the past few weeks, I have come to a new way of articulating what all I am expecting my students to learn in my class. I do not claim that these ideas are in any way new; I am simply articulating these ideas for myself. In this paradigm, there are at least three aspects of learning physics: