Teaching and Communicating Physics


In Jacob Barandes' Physics 302, students are driven to learn how to teach and communicate physics by giving small, mini-lessons throughout the semester. They are then driven to perform a longer lesson as a final project to show what they have learned during the term.

Goals: The end-goal is to help first-year graduate students in physics improve their presentation and teaching skills, as well as increase their confidence when they teach lessons in their careers in graduate school and beyond.

Class: Physics 302: Teaching and Communicating Physics

  1. Students prepare 10-minute practice lessons in advance.
  2. Then, after some brief introductory material in class, students break up into four groups each consisting of five students and one instructor, and each group goes to a different room in the building.
  3. One a time, a student in a group leads an interactive lesson for the other students and instructor in that group for 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of immediate feedback and discussion moderated by the instructor in that group.
  4. Then another student leads the next lesson and the process repeats until every student has had a turn.
  5. Each student's final project is an extended (20-minute) practice-teaching session to give them a chance to show what they've learned from the course.
  6. There are more detailed instructions in the attached syllabus. 
Follow-up: Each 5-minute feedback session includes concrete advice from the instructor regarding areas of improvement for next time. Assessment is ongoing with the students as instructors observe their developing skills and zero in on areas for continued improvement. An entire class session is devoted to obtaining small-group feedback from the students, and surveys are used to measure student learning and find out how they feel the class has change them.

Comments: Much research indicates that students learn far more by practicing what they need to do in a non-judgmental environment with plenty of expert feedback than they do from merely sitting through passive lectures.
Make sure students have plenty of time to prepare for their practice-teaching sessions, and make sure instructors give them specific, concrete, constructive feedback. This course is in its third year now, but there's always room for continued improvement in helping students pick their lesson topics, giving them better feedback, and managing class time more efficiently.

Materials/Resources: Students generally brought their own notes, but on Week 7, when their practice teaching takes the form of an interactive laboratory lesson, they can bring in materials from home or from the Science Center labs.

Please note all the attached documents are works in progress and may vary from year to year.

syllabus.pdf86 KB
agenda.pdf82 KB
feedback guide.pdf50 KB