June 2006-May 2007
Level of Access
There is a need among science students for increased conceptual and mathematical understanding in courses beyond the introductory level. Future scientists, future secondary science teachers, and future engineers who take these courses must create an effective bridge between the mathematical reasoning emphasized in most physics classes and the physical intuition that will guide their future work. Using past success as a template, the collaborating PI's are developing Intermediate Mechanics Tutorials, a set of at least 23 tutorials, including pencil-and-paper conceptual tutorials (15), mathematical tutorials (4), and computer-based tutorials (4), for the purpose of enhancing instruction in intermediate mechanics. Each tutorial is accompanied by a pretest (ungraded quiz), homework problems, and post-tests (exam questions). Tutorials are designed to allow flexible implementation in lecture, studio, laboratory, or seminar courses.
Intellectual Merit: Tutorial materials act as supplements to (rather than replacements of) regular lecture instruction. Materials address specific difficulties students have when learning the physics. Having the materials in place allows for greater understanding of what student difficulties in intermediate mechanics are, as well as providing data about the difficulties. Physics education research (PER) data not only can enhance future versions of these materials but also can help instructors using other similar materials in their classes.
Broader impact: A coherent set of materials is being created for teaching intermediate mechanics more effectively. These materials can reach future scientists, teachers, and future university faculty. The research-based development work can inform other ongoing PER investigations. Dissemination to interested physics faculty members can help them learn about and utilize innovative teaching methods.
Wittmann, Michael J., "Collaborative Project: Developing a tutorial approach to enhance student learning of intermediate mechanics" (2007). University of Maine Office of Research and Sponsored Programs: Grant Reports. 339.