Sydney University Physics Education Research Group aims to carry out research and implement innovations in teaching in the school.
Interactive Teaching Resources for Thermal Physics Available on the WebPal Fekete, Brian McInnes, School of Physics, The University of Sydney
and Paul Walker, University College London
Lectures are relatively ineffective at stimulating thought1. The problem is that rarely is there opportunity for student participation in a way that involves their preconceptions and stimulates them to critically examine those preconceptions and, where necessary, change them. In traditional lecture rooms in science and science-related disciplines, demonstrations are the only form of interaction and are usually used to show applications of scientific theories to a passive audience. Rarely is the relationship between theory and the real world explored.
Previous work on student interaction has been done for topics like Mechanics2 and Electricity3. Work has also been done on interaction using workshops and studios4. Little of this work is useful for our large lecture theatre environment. Resources need to be developed for interactive use in large lecture room environments.
In 1995 Fekete was employed by McInnes and Walker as part of a CAUT grant, Diagnostic Tools for Concept Development, to develop a practical and accessible database of resources to be used in a first year lecture course on Thermal Physics. The material was specifically designed for large lecture environments and included:
The Web was chosen as the preferred option for distribution as it was the most suitable medium to disseminate information to a large international body of academics. See http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/teach/thermal/thermal.html
It is a simple matter for people to print the information presented.
Particular educational problems are addressed in the creation of this resource and include:
An example of one of the demonstrations available to our lecturers is shown below. It consists of a wooden box with two chimneys. Below one chimney is a candle. Below the other chimney is a metal tray containing a smouldering rope which produces black smoke. The demonstration is meant to illustrate convection.
To use this demonstration interactively the lecturer could do the following:
While this is a simple demonstration, and most students usually make the correct prediction, it serves to illustrate the method of interaction encouraged by our database. This method of student interaction is called Predict, Observe, Explain (POE)6.
Thermal Physics was lectured to three normal classes of students and an advanced class. To test the resources of the database one of the normal classes was taught interactively, the other two classes and the advanced class were taught traditionally.
Evaluation of the resources was carried out through a number of means. Approximately 10 students from each of the three normal classes were interviewed both before and after the course was taught; entry and exit quizzes were administered to all students of all classes at the start and finish of the course; student appraisal and attendance was recorded; exam performance was evaluated.
From this information we were able to show that:
During 1995 and 1996 a database of teaching resources, which includes demonstrations and interactive questions, suitable for use in a lecture course on Thermal Physics was developed and placed on the Web. Teachers are able to choose demonstrations and other resources that complement their teaching styles. They are also exposed to alternative approaches in teaching, in particular interactive teaching.
In the future it is hoped to extend this resource for use by undergraduate students by making it interactive. Students will be able to access the resource for themselves and also communicate to each other and the lecturer through such tools as a discussion group.
UniServe Science News Volume 8 November 1997
Page Maintained By: PhySciCH@mail.usyd.edu.au