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Lessons learned: A case study of an integrated way of teaching introductory physics to at-risk students at Rutgers University
1.For a cross-section of views on this topic see the articles by A. B. Arons, L. C. McDermott, R. K. Thornton, and E. Mazur, in Conference on the Introductory Physics Course, edited by J. M. Wilson (Wiley, New York, 1997); and
1.P. W. Laws, “Calculus-based physics without lectures,” Phys. Today 44 (12), 24–31 (1991).
2.B. L. Holton and G. K. Horton, “The Rutgers Physics Learning Center: Reforming the Physics Course for First Year Engineering and Science Students,” Phys. Teach. 34 (3), 138–143 (1996).
3.P. Heller, R. Keith, and S. Anderson, “Teaching problem solving through cooperative grouping. 1 Group versus individual problem solving,” Am. J. Phys. 60, 627–636 (1992).
3.In connection with this and subsequent work we also want to note the important insights due to Professor K. Heller. E. Mazur, Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual, The Problem with Conventional Problems (Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1997), Chap. 4, p. 29;
3.B. J. Duch, D. G. Onn, and C. A. Cuddy, “Problem Based Team Learning in an Honors Section of a Science Majors Course,” in Ref. 1, pp. 193–196.
5.S. Tobias, They’re Not Dumb, They’re Different: Stalking the Second Tier (Research Corporation, Tucson, AZ, 1990);
5.“Moving the Mountain: How Do we Get the Physics Community to Change?” in Ref. 1, pp. 103–109.
6.There are many publications that demonstrate that if the students are actively engaged in learning their performance is significantly better than that of the students in the courses taught in the traditional way. For example:
6.R. R. Hake, “Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses,” Am. J. Phys. 66, 64–74 (1998);
6.E. F. Redish, J. M. Saul, and R. N. Steinberg, “On the effectiveness of active-engagement microcomputer-based laboratories,” Am. J. Phys. 65, 45–54 (1997).
7.Science Teaching Reconsidered; A Handbook (National Research Council Committee on Undergraduate Education, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 1997).
8.The discussion of this problem and other issues related to the specifics of learning science by women can be found in the March/April issue of Journal of College Science Teaching (1992): S. Tobias, “Women in Science—Women and Science,” J. College Sci. Teach. 276–278 (March/April 1992);
8.E. Seymour, “Undergraduate Problems with Teaching and Advising in SME Majors—Explaining Gender Differences and Attrition Rates,” ibid. 284–292 (March/April 1992);
8.M. Waxman, “Strategies for Improving the Representation of Women in the Medical Sciences,” ibid. 293–299 (March/April 1992).
8.See also “Women in mathematics and physics: Inhibitors and enhancers,” The University of Michigan (Report), 1990, 135 pp.
8.The need to create a community and collaboration for minority students to succeed was demonstrated in other fields. For example, in mathematics, see Uri Treisman, “Studying students studying calculus: A look at the lives of minority mathematics students in college,” College Math. J. 23 (5), 362–372 (1992).
8.More information about successful approaches to teaching mathematics to minority students can be obtained through http://www.math.uiuc.edu/MeritWorkshop/uriModel.html.
9.J. D. Cutnell and K. W. Johnson, Physics (Wiley, New York, 1997), 4th ed.
10.E. Mazur, “Understanding or memorization: Are We Teaching the Right Thing,” in Ref. 1, pp. 113–124.
11.Information about our various course materials can be obtained from the first author.
12.R. Gautreau and L. Novemsky, “Concepts first—A small group approach to physics learning,” Am. J. Phys. 65 (5), 418–429 (1997).
13.We quote from Norman de Bruyne’s article in Cambridge Physics in the Thirties’, edited by J. Hendry (Hilger, Bristol, 1984), p. 83. “The worst lecturer [at the Cavendish] was C. T. R. Wilson, the inventor of the cloud chamber. His audience rapidly diminished to one or two faithfuls. Nevertheless, to those patient and intelligent enough to interpret his speech and his handwriting on the blackboard (I was not one of them) it must have been a rewarding task as Blackett’s words testify: “I first met C. T. R. Wilson just after World War I when I attended his lectures on light. His voice was not easy to follow and his blackboard was difficult to read but somehow I took adequate notes and those are almost the only lecture notes of my student days to which I have repeatedly returned… .” Bragg gave a similar judgment. Both Patrick Blackett and Lawrence Bragg became physics Noble Laureates.
14.J. Shapiro, “Electronic Student Response System Found Feasible in Large Science Lecture Hall,” J. College Sci. Teach. XXVI, 408–412 (1997).
15.J. Poulis, C. Massen, E. Robens, and M. Gilbert, “Physics lecturing with audience paced feedback,” Am. J. Phys. 66 (5), 439–441 (1998). These authors present dramatic evidence of the effectiveness of audience paced feedback in physics lectures. Their findings are consistent with our conclusions.
16.A classic example of a grading problem is the grade of D awarded to Heisenberg in 1923 at his Ph.D. oral exam for knowledge, achievement, talent, and promise. That was two years before the 24 year old discovered quantum mechanics for which he was awarded a solo Nobel Prize nine years later. The examination was conducted by Wien and Sommerfeld, and Heisenberg had some difficulties with elementary wave optics. The former voted for an F and the latter for an A and a compromise had to be reached. Both knew the student well but there may have been some pique involved on Wien’s part. Yet circumstances were surely ideal for reaching a just grade and look what happened!
17.We took considerable precautions to make the comparison meaningful and rigorous. The questions were made up by a neutral colleague after both courses had finished. And the analysis was done by the same colleague. The questions were of the back-of-the-chapter type.
18.One of the common questions selected by the two professors in charge for the fall ’96 final involved a problem that had been discussed in GP in a lecture and in EGP in a minilab. It required considerable thought. We were pleased that the EGP students gave mostly correct answers and this contributed to the 71% to 61% differential.
19.M. Spear, “Degrees of Success,” Oxford Magazine 140 (8th week), Hilary Term, 6–9 (1997).
19.See also N. G. McCrum, “The Gender Gap at Oxford,” Oxford Magazine 144 (4th week), Trinity Term, 6–10 (1997);
19.J. H. Mellanby and J. N. P. Rawlins, “The Gender Gap—The Case of PPP,” Oxford Magazine 144 (8th week), Trinity Term, 2 (1997).
20.Learning, Remembering, Believing: Enhancing Human Performance, edited by D. Druckman and R. A. Bjork (National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1994).
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