Colloquium Series

Time: Thursday 4 June 2015 – 1:00pm
Place: New Horizons (Building 82), Theatre G29 (map)

Teaching Students to 'Think Like a Physicist'

Dr John Debs, Australian National University

I will present our method for teaching a foundational first-year physics course, that we deliver to a group of ∼100 students who are non-physics majors with diverse cultural and educational backgrounds, ranging from domestic to international students, and opera-singers to engineers. In 2011, borrowing elements from studio teaching (such as the SCALE-UP model), and centered entirely around the weekly 'lab', we set out to generate a uniquely hands-on, inquiry-oriented, research-driven teaching environment that motivates and inspires students learning. Over the last four years, we have refined this radical learning environment, introducing equally radical assessment methods such as internet-enabled exams, and assessable student video 'reports'. The result is a first-year course like no other. Our goal is not only to teach students relevant, contextual physics, but also to "think like a physicist" – a set of professional skills that are highly transferrable to other courses, areas of science, and life in general. Evidence to date strongly suggests we are achieving this goal.

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