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.
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.
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.
Well a new semester has begun at UMass-Amherst, and the group has lots of interesting new projects!
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: