Physics Concepts Review

Gareth Kafka's students in Physics 15b work together to solve problems in class in order to emphasize process and collaboration. 

To participate, students need to have attended lectures. At the beginning of section, the class reviews basic concepts from lecture, then students break themselves into groups of 4 or 5. During the activity, students use only the handouts given to them at the beginning of section. They are actively told not to use pens/pencils! The handouts include short blurbs of basic lecture concepts, important formulae from lecture, and practice problems. Each group discusses the problem, answering questions such as "what do we already know?" and "what do we need to show?" They may discuss what formulae would be useful, but are told not to actually solve the problem. After about 5 minutes, the instructor works the problem on the board, using almost only student input. He only gives tips and tricks as necessary, providing explanations as they are useful. The class works as many problems as possible in this way, and at the end of section the instructor summarizes the important points.

The activity has a few goals: 1) Give students a good method to solve problems. 2) Help them slow down; make them think before they write! 3) Help students feel comfortable working with each other and explaining topics to each other.

Gareth recommends starting this method early. Changing the effort that students must put forth themselves in the middle of the semester is notoriously difficult!