What Else (Besides the Syllabus) Should Students Learn in Introductory Physics? Documents

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What Else (Besides the Syllabus) Should Students Learn in Introductory Physics? 

written by David E. Pritchard, Analia Barrantes, and Brian R. Belland

We have surveyed what various groups of instructors and students think students should learn in introductory physics. We started with a Delphi Study based on interviews with experts, then developed orthogonal responses to "what should we teach non-physics majors besides the current syllabus topics?" AAPT attendees, atomic researchers, and PERC08 attendees were asked for their selections. All instructors rated "sense-making of the answer" very highly and expert problem solving highly. PERers favored epistemology over problem solving, and atomic researchers "physics comes from a few principles." Students at three colleges had preferences anti-aligned with their teachers, preferring more modern topics, and the relationship of physics to everyday life and also to society (the only choice with instructor agreement), but not problem solving or sense-making. Conclusion #1: we must show students how old physics is relevant to their world. Conclusion #2: significant course reform must start by reaching consensus on what to teach and how to hold students' interest (then discuss techniques to teach it).

Published November 11, 2009
Last Modified March 11, 2010

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