Confused at a higher level

The view from Carleton College's physics department

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Intro to Newtonian Physics

Posted by Arjendu on March 31, 2015

Yesterday was the first day of Spring Term at Carleton. This is what my teaching journal entry (aka Facebook wall) read:

“What I am teaching: Intro to Newtonian Physics. It’s my first time through since Spring 2008, though I’ve taught some variation about 9 times, including the giant classes at Rice, and the Matter and Interactions versions here. Syllabi are written but not yet printed, the structure of tests, assignments, etc semi-decided, labs are lined up (borrowing furiously from colleagues here), student assistants contacted. The administrative questions from students have already begun. Writing my first lecture, and feeling the butterflies as always.”

The last time I taught it, I went extreme: ‘No lecturing’. This was in 2008, just slightly before the term ‘flipped classroom’ came into vogue, else that’s what I would have called it. It was documented on camera (I still can’t bear to watch the video) by Carleton; you can watch it here if you like: http://serc.carleton.edu/carl_cam/courses/physics131.htm .

I also blogged about it then, and that’s proving useful notes for me this time:
Spring Break and new experiences
So far so good
Stable and unstable lectures
Refusing to throw stones
and
Almost done.

I am not being that extreme this time, though I think it went well enough. It takes a certain deep familiarity with the material to do things that way and seven years later, I can’t legitimately claim that. So the students are going to get a more lecture + conceptual tests + problem solving version that resembles how I taught it at Rice (I believe they still do things that way there) and also how I taught it at Carleton my first 2 years.

For all sorts of reasons, this Spring Term group of students is very similar to those that I had that Spring Term. It is also a very different group than the majors and first-year seminar students I have had so far this year. There are essentially zero majors or potential majors and many seniors. Almost all the students are taking this course because it fulfills a major or other requirement. Most of them haven’t taken physics in a while if ever, and some of them have expressed anxiety about the physics as well as the math on my first-day survey.

I’ll report back as possible on how this iteration works out.

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