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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UMass-Amherst Goes to AAPT SM18!

Jake Shechter presenting at AAPT SM18
Jake Shechter presenting at AAPT SM18

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.

Brokk Toggerson is presenting a poster on Physics 131, a poster on P132, and a presentation on P390T.

Jake Shecter is presenting on Physics 691 on Graduate TA Training and Professionalization.

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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Getting students to solve problems effectively

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.

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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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