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A new formula for teaching introductory physics

Posted by keelynet on January 25, 2009

Always, ALWAYS, handson is the best teacher!

“With physicists across the country pushing for universities to do a better job of teaching science, MIT has made a striking change. The physics department has replaced the traditional large introductory lecture with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning. Last autumn, after years of experimentation and debate and resistance from students, who initially petitioned against it, the department made the change permanent. Already, attendance is up, and the failure rate has dropped by more than 50 percent. Other U.S. universities are changing their ways, among them Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Harvard. In these schools, physicists have been pioneering new teaching methods drawn from research showing that most students learn fundamental concepts more successfully, and are better able to apply them, through interactive, collaborative, student-centered learning. “Just as you can’t become a marathon runner by watching marathons on TV,” physicist Eric Mazur said, “likewise for science, you have to go through the thought processes of doing science and not just watch your instructor do it.” At MIT, two introductory courses are still required – classical mechanics and electromagnetism – but today they meet in high-tech classrooms, where about 80 students sit at 13 round tables equipped with networked computers. Instead of blackboards, the walls are covered with white boards and huge display screens. Circulating with a team of teaching assistants, the professor makes brief presentations of general principles and engages the students as they work out related concepts in small groups. Teachers and students conduct experiments together. The room buzzes. Conferring with your tablemates, calling out questions and jumping up to write formulas on the white boards are all encouraged. The new approach at MIT is known by its acronym, TEAL, for Technology Enhanced Active Learning.” – Source

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