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Dickinson College


  • Laws, Priscilla
  • Smith, Trevor

Workshop Physics is a new method of teaching calculus-based introductory physics without formal lectures. Instead students learn collaboratively through activities and observations. Observations are enhanced with computer tools for the collection, graphical display, analysis and modeling of real data. Typical Workshop Physics classes meet for three two-hour long sessions each week and students use an Activity Guide  published by John Wiley & Sons.

The Workshop Science Project is a major effort to increase the effectiveness of science education for future elementary school teachers, parents, and citizens by developing a sequence of introductory, activity-based, laboratory courses. We seek to integrate the use of guided-inquiry techniques with self-directed projects in order to help students acquire a more fundamental understanding of the nature of science. This hands-on approach is aimed at changing the focus of traditional introductory science courses from rapidly covering a large number of topics (usually accomplished via lectures), to carefully giving students the time they need to construct a consistent mental model of the concept under study. This shift in emphasis promotes the learning of operative (as opposed to declarative) knowledge which will aid in developing the critical thinking skills necessary to increase their scientific literacy.

A modular design of the curricular materials provides ample flexibility for instructors at other colleges and universities to adapt the program to their own environments. This is accomplished by choosing those units that best suit the needs and abilities of the instructor. Although designed for use in teacher preparation programs and general studies courses, the hands-on nature of the course might actually inspire some students to pursue one of the sciences as a major.


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