UniServe Science News Volume 12 March 1999


Promoting Active Learning in Introductory Physics Courses

Patrick Keleher
James Goldston Faculty of Engineering and Physical Systems, Central Queensland University

Two "Promoting Active Learning in Introductory Physics Courses" workshops were held in January, 1999, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. They were organised by UniServe Science on behalf of the National Science Foundation in the United States and its Chautauqua project. The presenters were Priscilla Laws (Dickinson College), David Sokoloff (University of Oregon) and Ronald Thornton (Tufts University). The workshops attracted Physics lecturers and teachers from most Australian states, New Zealand and a number of lecturers from Asia through Asian Physics Educators Network (AsPEN) sponsored by UNESCO. [Editor]

This short course certainly lived up to its name! It provided a wide range of appropriate opportunities for students to actively revisit conceptual aspects typically covered in a first year tertiary physics course. The scope of the written materials and microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) tools is even broader than this as it would also be put to extremely good use at a high school level.

I greatly appreciated the generosity, wisdom and extensive experience of the presenters in highlighting methods to ascertain "where students are at" through conceptual assessment. Laboratory exercises adopted to enable students to grapple with and come to better understand conceptual aspects of physics were also extremely pertinent. Furthermore the materials expose students to mathematical modelling using the MBL software and spreadsheets, and interpretation of real life motion is able to be conducted by the provision of interactive video analysis. An extensive library of video clips was included for analysis and instruction was provided regarding the production of "home-made" video clips for analysis.

The instructional materials presented were highly practical, illustrating a commonsense, straightforward approach. Categorically I would say students would truly enjoy learning physics if they were given the opportunity to adopt the use of these learning tools!

Ron Thornton and participants at the workshop.

Ron Thornton and participants at the workshop.

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UniServe Science News Volume 12 March 1999

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