A New College Physics Approach
A new modular approach to the standard algebra/trigonometry based
physics course is being developed, with the help of a NSF Advanced
Technological Education (ATE) grant, in a project is called Introductory
College Physics/Twenty First Century (ICP/21). The material, which
will target engineering and medical technology students, will be at
a level that will make it acceptable for transfer to any university.
ICP/21 is unique in that it takes into account recent developments
in physics education research, changes in student goals, and advances
in technology that can be used in the classroom.
ICP/21 places importance on students understanding the basic concepts
and having confidence in applying them, rather than exposing them to
many ideas which are neither understood nor remembered. Several features
are found throughout each module.
- Students are actively engaged. The need for lectures has been greatly
reduced. Most classroom time is devoted to laboratories, work sheet
activities, and discussion among students.
- The curriculum will have two tracks. One will incorporate the advantages
of using high technology equipment in the laboratory and classroom
(MBL, CBL, multimedia, computer analysis of data), while the second
track will allow instructors to teach the same concepts using traditional
- Quantitative problem solving is equally important as student understanding
of the concepts. Procedures and problem solving strategies will be
emphasized and not just getting the "right answers." Students
will use multiple representations for most problems and be able to
tie together the knowledge gained by analyzing a problem from a pictorial,
physical, graphical, and mathematical perspective.
- Through the use of learning cycles students will actively test
their own conceptual understandings of our natural world. If their
conceptual models do not work they will be led to the construction
of a more accepted scientific module that does. Each module will
contain 3 to 5 sections.
In addition to the pedagogical approach used, there is also the problem
of student motivation. College physics students more and more (especially
technical students) want to understand why they need to take physics.
- ICP/21 uses applications found in industry and medicine throughout
the problem sets and examples. Students quickly understand that physics
is an important underpinning in their field of study. This has turned
out to be one of the hardest parts of the project for the authors.
It is difficult to find applications that are not too complicated
and that fit the simple models of introductory college physics.
- Modeling is emphasized. The necessary simplifications and assumptions
that are made by physicists in developing the simple models and theories
used in introductory college physics are clearly explained. These
models give "approximate" answers to "real-world" problems.
Possible modifications are also introduced, which could be made to
some models by engineers or researchers in order to give better answers.
Each module (approximately three weeks of work) will be broken up
into 3 to 5 sections. Each section will incorporate a Learning Cycle.
- Introduction: Motivational with video showing "real-world" applications.
Present an overarching question to be answered in the section.
- Exploration: Hands on chance for students to test their
- Reflection: Time for students to commit to their current
- Dialog: Usually by class discussion the model used by scientists
- Extension: "Extend" the model with various "types" of
homework and activities.
- Application: Pull together many of the concepts into an
application exercise or capstone project.
An exciting feature is that all ten modules, plus a toolkit, will
be available on an CD-ROM. The CD-ROM will be for the instructor to
use. It will contain a user's guide and the "quick pick" form
of the student edition. The student edition can be edited. Instructors
can change the laboratories, take out any parts they do not want to
use, or add their favorite material. During the editing, the instructors
can delete or add problems and exercises, so the modules meet the mathematical
level of their students. The end result can be printed locally and
sold in the bookstore just as a regular textbook. The authors and physics "topics" are
[webmaster note: I've inserted hyper links where I could find them.
Some of these folks can't be located because insufficient information
is given to identify the institution and/or their institution does
not provide useful directory services.]
|Sherry Savrda /
Lake Sumter Community College
Dickison - PI/
Seminole Community College
|Leo Takahashi /
Penn State University - Beaver Campus
Green River Community College
|Rebecca Hartzler /
Edmonds Community College
|Pearley Cunningham -
Community College of Allegheny County
|Charles Robertson /
University of Washington
|Charles Lang /
University of Nebraska
Lincoln and Omaha Westside High School
|Brian Box /
North Oklahoma College
|Roger Edmonds and John Terrell
Middlesex Community College
The authors are looking for physics faculty willing to review parts
or all of any module. This input is important in the achievement of
the best modules possible. The modules are presently available in hard
copy. Toward the end of summer 1998, the first CDs will be available.
Field testing will begin during the 1998-99 school year. If you are
interested in getting involved, please contact the author.
Alexander Dickison is a Professor and Chair of the Physical Sciences
Department at Seminole Community College, Sanford, Florida. He is
Treasurer of AAPT.