The last semester of big changes… (phew!)

This semester, I’m working with a smaller instructional team–in what will be the last year of our structured roll out of new curriculum in our introductory algebra-based physics sequence.

Although, there were certainly advantages to having had started off with a big 10-person team last year, I’m quite happy to be working with a much smaller team (only 3 including me) this time around. It’s giving us the time and head space to talk about the content, the pedagogy, and also trouble-shooting. The two instructors I’m working with are both really great instructors, who have decades of teaching experience. We are working on the 2nd semester course, which has been in their responsibility and care for a long time. I really want to respect that and also leverage their expertise in making this curriculum something they can be proud of.

In terms of our department, these two definitely lean a little more conservative in their teaching orientations and are at times skeptical / hesitant of certain types of reforms. That said, right now, I have their good graces and their eagerness and interest, and I don’t want to spoil that. Also, both of them already have had a decent range of experience working in classrooms that involve interactive engagement. Our intro physics has long included collaborative problem-solving (i.e., white-boarding). Both instructors are familiar with and think highly of educational technologies like PhET simulations, which they have used in the past for both lecture demonstrations and laboratory activities. One of the instructors has experimented using peer instruction (clicker questions) with mixed feelings of success and self-efficacy–struggling to get it working in a large-astronomy lecture, but enjoying it in a intermediate-level physics course for applied physics majors. The other has no experience with these types of peer instruction activities. I imagine a decent focus for us as a group will be managing class discussions, not just to make them effective for learning, but really to help them to be enjoyable. People more readily continue do what they like and feel is going well, so that will be likely be a priority for me in working with them.

My work-life balance should be better this semester, and I’m hoping to have no major department-wide instructional responsibilities next semester.

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