Confused at a higher level

The view from Carleton College's physics department

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Syllabi stories

Posted by Arjendu on December 21, 2007

I am struggling with syllabi for the next term. One is for Physics 120: Revolutions in Physics. It’s a light conceptual survey of physics, with a closer look at some ideas with historical, sociological and philosophical implications.

It’s a really fun course because I get to figure out a story to tell about physics. But finding the right text — and matching one’s lectures to it is a trick I am still learning. Then comes fitting the content into the time-constraints of a Carleton term, with its 70 and 60 minute teaching chunks spread over 10 weeks, with breaks, Tests and what not to be fitted in. That’s always a good exercise in editing and discovering of priorities — how long do I take to talk about quantum mechanics? Should I have an exercise on this day instead of a lecture? When should I do the ‘recap/review’ days? What’s a good time for this essay? It gets tricky! I’ve taught this course 4 times now, I think, and each time I tell the story slightly differently. This time is going to be a distinct shift, particularly because of a new text. I’m looking forward to figuring this term out.

It’s at the end of the spectrum from my other responsibility, Quantum I and II. I love that pair of 5 week courses: the content is very interesting and challenging, and increasingly critical in understanding modern technology. Even the techniques of analysis are cool! It’s also my second course with this cohort of technically-trained juniors, who I look forward to sparking. With any luck I’ll induce one or more of them to join my research team which is going to shrink dramatically since I have two graduating seniors working with me.

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