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Abstract Title: Re-developing upper-level electrodynamics using PER
Abstract: Electrodynamics is a fundamental subject in physics, but in the words of Prof. Steinn Sigurdsson of Penn State University, "Electromagnetism is Severus Snape. You must master E&M, but so many have irrational fear or hatred of it. It leads to deep unification and glimpses of fundamental symmetries, and is strangely beautiful yet powerful." (Physical theories made magical, APS News, vol. 17, no. 8, p. 4, 2008). The combination of two features: students having to learn many key concepts, as well as to master the use of mathematical techniques in order to understand the applications, makes this course challenging both for the student and the instructor. In the Physics Education Research community, a lot of attention has been paid to the improvement of delivery of introductory Physics courses and high-school Physics courses (see the numerous articles in Physical Review Supplement: Physics Education Research or the Physics Teacher). But teaching upper-level courses to a student group that is becoming increasing inhomogeneous is a distinct challenge that hasn't been addressed very much. Inspired by the work of Stephanie Chasteen, et.al., "Upper Division Transformations in Physics", STEM Education Symposium, Univ. of Colorado, August 31, 2009 poster, I have re-developed the upper-level electrodynamics course. The interventions used were: linking assessment to learning goals of the course, increasing student engagement via active learning, scaffolding for problem-solving, reducing lecture segments to 20minutes. Student achievement has improved significantly – the average of final exam scores (closed book exam with all new questions every year) has increased by almost 15%, and the average class grade has gone from C+/B- to a high B+.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Chitra Rangan
Department of Physics, University of Windsor. Canada.