Big Questions for My Teaching of Physics Course

In spring, I’m teaching “Teaching of Physics” again.  Here is my stab at trying to organize my thinking about that course around 3 big questions:

Understanding Physics: What does it mean to understand physics content in deep and meaningful ways? What do such understandings look like in general? What does this look like in particular with respect to the specific domains of physics content that I will likely teach?

Learning Physics: How does meaningful physics learning develop? What do my students need to be engaged in for this to happen? In what ways are exemplary physics curricula / instructional practices organized to engage students in these ways?

Teaching Physics: What do I as a teachers need to know and to be able to do to effectively orchestrate exemplary instruction that supports students in meaningful learning? What practices and habits of mind should I consider high-leverage and generative for me in developing as a teacher?

I’ve tried lots of other ways of organizing it, but this is where I’m at now.

Next steps:  

(i) What specific learning outcomes do I think are most important?

(ii) What would count as evidence that students have learned those things?


4 thoughts on “Big Questions for My Teaching of Physics Course

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  1. I’m not sure which are pre-reqs and which are just typical, but typical students will have had:

    2 semester of introductory physics (often algebra-based)
    1 semester of modern physics (would currently be in their second semester)
    1 semester of mathematical methods
    1 semester serving as a undergraduate physics TA (often in algebra-based course)
    They may or may not have had a semester of thermodynamics-its only taught every other year.
    Some will have taken “1 credit” physics content course for teacher course with me
    All will also have had several education courses–where they do practice teaching, develop lesson plans, learn about theories of knowing and learning, etc. Some students will have had more than others.

    1. Any physics major here can technically go through the algebra-based intro sequence, and transition to regular (and calculus-based) courses in sophomore year. The reason for this is recruiting. If students had to start over , they couldn’t graduate in four years, which would deter people from switching to physics and delay graduation (which means we get less money from our state government). This is especially important, because we have no engineering students to recruit from (who would already be in calc-based physics). Its not ideal that students don’t take intro calc-based. Many seem to struggle in their sophomore year. We are talking about ways to (1) ease that transition, (2) provide courses that fill important gaps for future teachers.

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