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Observations of General Learning Patterns in an Upper-Level Thermal Physics Course Documents

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Observations of General Learning Patterns in an Upper-Level Thermal Physics Course 

written by David E. Meltzer

I discuss some observations from using interactive-engagement instructional methods in an upper-level thermal physics course over a two-year period. From the standpoint of the subject matter knowledge of the upper-level students, there was a striking persistence of common learning difficulties previously observed in students enrolled in the introductory course, accompanied, however, by some notable contrasts between the groups. More broadly, I comment on comparisons and contrasts regarding general pedagogical issues among different student sub-populations, for example: differences in the receptivity of lower- and upper-level students to diagrammatic representations; varying receptivity to tutorial-style instructional approach within the upper-level population; and contrasting approaches to learning among physics and engineering sub-populations in the upper-level course with regard to use of symbolic notation, mathematical equations, and readiness to employ verbal explanations.

Published November 11, 2009
Last Modified March 11, 2010

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