I have a large lecture this semester

I’ve been trying to think about what the purpose of lecture should be in our introductory algebra-based physics sequence.

Students spend 5 hours per week in an integrated setting: A mix of teacher led worked examples, collaborative problem-solving, mini lectures and skill practice, discussion of conceptual question, and problem-solving.

The course is taught by many instructors who follow a common curriculum pacing not only a topic level but each problem and activity. There is room for teacher choice about how to fill gaps and free time, alter questions, and to a lesser extent make some adjustments to sequence of instruction.

The glue that binds the common pacing is lecture. In lecture is where a lead instructor administers exams to all students every 3-4 weeks. For lecture, students meet with 1.5 hours each week. During non testing weeks , instructors have 1.5 hours with the whole group to do whatever with–in the range of 75-200 students.

Typically instructors work to review or preview what students should have or are going to learn in the integrated setting. Most instructors balance didactic instruction with worked examples, with half the instructors using a clickers throughout the lecture.

Certainly one point of lecture is just to have a place for testing. Many instructors also speak of the importance of the lecturer showing worked examples so they know what kinds if question the lead instructor will give on tests. One instructor used lecture to really debrief on labs, but it seems most instructors now use the time to re-present material with their own emphasis and elaborations. While our egos make us believe that our special take on things is important, I’m disinclined to take this approach .

Of course, none of this tells me what the purpose of lecture is or should be for student learning. Some ideas I’ve been considering are:

– A focus on evidence and reasoning about evidence – how do we know and why do we believe?

– A focus on connecting physics to everyday experience and enjoyment of physics and physics learning?

– A focus on learning how to learn physics–epistemology and more practical issues.

All of the above is largely absent from the course, for the most part. And while I think filling these gaps is important, it’s also important to connect to other aspects of the course.


What other purposes for lecture should I be considering?

How can I both attend to above goals while also feeling integrated with the rest if the course?

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