Paths to Learning Physics in Physics 121-2-3
Students in this class come from many different
have many different learning styles, and have many different reasons
taking this class. At the University of Washington we want
everyone in this diverse population to learn and to appreciate
To this end, we provide many different learning opportunites.
are required, and some are optional, but all are aimed at our primary
-- that everyone in the class learns some physics (preferably while
The course design is a cooperative effort of many faculty, each
is deeply concerned with providing the most effective learning
for every student. Each element of the course, described individually
is essential to your mastery of physics. The lecture, tutorial and
laboratory components are
coordinated, but are not necessarily synchronized. Research has shown
presenting material in cycles, so that the same topic is approached
than once from different viewpoints, is a very effective means of
deeper understanding and long-term retention of ideas.
Lecture is a place to learn from someone who has thought about the
and used it in real life, plus a chance for the entire class to ask
(and hear the questions of others). You should read the text
coming to class, since lecture will complement the text, and not repeat
it. Lecture will contain a guide to what is important, an
of concepts, applications to real life, connections to other courses,
numerous demonstrations. Lecture is also the place where
aspects will be developed -- understanding where equations in the book
come from and how to apply them to solving problems. Lectures
will also utilize interactive "clicker questions" for you to stop and
engage in the material as it is being presented. Please be
of others' learning by not having side conversations in class (unless
to discuss a specific physics problem as part of lecture).
is a place to concentrate on concepts. You will work in small
with a TA to find your own answers to questions, frequently with small
experiments. Tutorial and lab are excellent places to
ideas off your colleagues. Make sure you don't let one person in
your group answer all the questions while you just watch and
The point of tutorials is to become actively engaged with the material
-- research has shown that active engagement significantly enhances
learning. Don't be afraid to tell someone else to be quiet while
you think, and please honor someone's request for you to hold your
for a minute while they figure something out for themselves.
is a place to actively engage with the physical phenomena -- to make
make measurements, and compare them. Make sure both you and your
lab partner understand everything you are doing. If you disagree,
or if neither of you know the answer, please ask the TA for help.
However, note that there is only 1 TA for 11 different lab
You won't finish the lab if you stop cold everytime you aren't sure --
ask your neighbors or go on to something else after letting the TA know
you need help. Lab works best if you read the lab and any
readings before coming to lab. This is especially important if
lab preceeds coverage in lecture or tutorial. Lab reports are
by your lab TA, who can give you feedback on your understanding.
If you are unclear on why you lost points on something, ASK!
- Study Center:
Study Center is a good place to do your homework and talk through the
with your peers and the teaching staff. The Study Center is
staffed many hours from Monday through Friday, 9:30-4:30. Note
that if you
come in right before tests or homework due dates, there is likely to be
a line for getting help. If you come in during less popular time
slots, and you can get more personal attention. If the TA and
are busy, talk to your peers -- often you will each bring one piece
of the puzzle to make a whole. You will each learn more that way,
as well. When you ask questions, let the instructor
know what you've been thinking so he or she can approach the problem in
that makes sense to you. Also, remember that the Study Center
may not have seen your specific problem before, and the last question
answered may have been for a different course, so please give them a
to think it through.
- Go-Post: The Go-Post Chat Room is a place to post questions
about the homework or
material to anyone in the class, and to test your understanding by
others' questions. The professor will check it occasionally as
Please give guidance and advice, but not specific solutions, when
probe your understanding of the material to be covered in tutorial
the coming week. The results are reviewed by the tutorial
staff at their weekly preparation session (after they take the pretest
themselves!) to help them know where to place their efforts.
also benefit you by highlighting the important concepts of the coming
tutorial. Similar questions often will appear on exams.
aids the physics education research and teaching staff in assessing the
efficacy of tutorial and lecture in teaching concepts.
- Tutorial Homework:
Tutorial homework is an opportunity to work with the concepts
in tutorial to ensure understanding. The solutions are not
If you read through the homework before coming to tutorial, it can help
guide you to what is important in tutorial itself. Tutorial HW is
handed in and returned in tutorial. It is graded by your tutorial
TA, who can give you feedback on your understanding. If you are
on why you lost points on something, ASK!
- Required Lecture
Required lecture homework is designed to have you work with the
presented in lecture and in the text. It is administered
the Tycho system on the world wide web. You do not really
the material until you can do the homework problems. You are not
prepared for exams until you can do the homework problems without
more than a formula sheet. Start early, and come to the
Study Center and office hours with your questions. Don't just try
random numbers in Tycho until it accepts your answer. Do,
keep track of non-significant figures through intermediate steps, since
Tycho checks for 1% accuracy when checking your answer. If you
understand a problem, ASK. You are welcome to work together on
homework. However, you should do the first run through and the
solution on your own.
- Supplemental Lecture
Supplemental homework problems give you a chance for more practice with
the material. Again, work together, but make sure you do the
solution yourself. The way to convince yourself that you
the book and lecture is to do problems. Note there are many more
problems in Tipler & Mosca than can be assigned. If you need
practice, or feel
a need for "warm-up" problems, do them. Note that the
problems have answers in the back of the book.
- Reading the Text Book:
You should read the book before the associated lecture.
relevant sections are posted in the syllabus. If something is
make a note of it and move on -- ask questions in class if it is still
confusing. If you don't feel comfortable asking in class, come to
the Study Center, post questions on the E-Post, and/or ask questions
the weekly teaching surveys each weekend.
- Talking with the
Professor: You are strongly encouraged to
visit with the professor regularly during
by appointment. Get used to the idea of
the Professor outside of class during the quarter; it will pay off for
you in many ways as the years go by! This will not happen unless YOU
the initiative, and now is a great time to start. Interacting
with students is the best part of our job -- how many careers do you
know of where you actually get paid to be curious and to talk to people?
It has been said that no physics makes sense until you
seen it three times. There are a dozen ways to interact with the
above; hopefully at least three of them will work for your style of
This class will require a major time investment, but we hope you will
it worthwhile. It is a real treat to understand the inner
of the physical world!!
for tests, taking them, and then having someone carefully grade them is
another way to learn the material. Typical homework problems
just one or two sections in the book. Exam problems will be more
general, incorporating multiple ideas. Think about these
as you are studying. Also, as you are doing problems, keep track
of the notes and formulas that you need. In this way, you can
a more useful note page for use during the exams. Pick up your
and learn from your mistakes. If you don't understand why you
points, ASK! Graders occasionally make mistakes, too.