Sunday, September 26, 2010

Teaching Physics - A Philosophy

Its been a while since I last blogged (I seem to be saying this more often than not) so I thought I would bounce back with a few quick update. The school year is underway and I am more focused than ever in honing my teaching skills. I have three great classes this semester (all in Physics), in what can only be described as a dream timetable. However all great opportunities come with great responsibility (a twist on the Spiderman theme). My self accepted mission is to work on my student’s cognitive skills and critical thinking attributes. I wish to hone for them a deeper understanding of the physics. Physics is a philosophy but too often it is taught as a type of Applied Mathematics. Many students can’t see beyond the mathematics (which is vital tool but by no means the defining entity of the discipline) which is a shame. Fortunately there are several pedagogical instruments that can assist a teacher in this realm. These include

Building Projects – Over the years my students have built mousetraps, balloon cars, egg drop protection devices, rollercoasters, robots, Rube Goldberg machines. This year I plan to have them build either pinball machines or safe lock devices. Each of these projects has been selected for their adherence to principles of physics – conservation of energy, momentum, Newton’s laws of motion, electric fields etc. A detailed report submitted in accordance with the physical build will further expound on the physics learnt.

Self Design Labs – These are open ended labs based on student directed procedure that are undertaken to discover the relationship between a series of entities, optimize a system or study the ramifications of cause and effect

Physics Essays – Yes one can write and speculate in physics with the same enthusiasm as that shown in the humanities. The discussion of the Big Ideas especially as it relates to the historical evolution of the subject or the topics of modern physics
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