Motivating Students in Introductory Physics


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Recording date: 10/24/13
Presenter: Deb Katz

In this webinar, we will discuss the characteristics of highly motivated students and what we can do to motivate our introductory physics students. Students in a lion-taming course are highly motivated to learn due to the course’s immediate relevance. The course is no-longer just a hoop the student must jump through in order to earn a college degree or meet a prerequisite, but a relevant and applicable lesson to ensure success in the student’s future.

Watch Deb Katz, Physics Professor at the United States Naval Academy webinar, to learn how she creates immediate relevance in her course to motivate and engage students to succeed in her course and throughout their education.

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  • Welcome! On behalf of Cengage Learning, thank you for taking the time to participate in today’s webinar “ Motivating Students in Introductory Physics” hosted by Debora Katz.
    Professor Debora Katz has been teaching introductory physics at the United States Naval Academy since 1995. She earned her doctorate at the University of Minnesota, where she was first introduced to physics education research. There she practiced active learning. As a professor at the Naval Academy, she teaches calculus-based physics to midshipmen with a variety of backgrounds. All these students are in the same classroom, and so Prof. Katz had to find a way to motivate, engage and ultimately teach this diverse student population.
    Based on her teaching experience, she is writing a new calculus-based physics program that leverages Physics Education Research best practices.
  • Here’s a quick overview of today’s webinar –which will take roughly 60 minutes from start to finish.
    The upfront portion will be an open discussion around student challenges and how to motivate students in introductory physics. Deb will lead this discussion – and then she will then provide examples of how she uses case studies in her classroom. We will leave a few minutes at the end for questions and closing remarks.
    We’d like to keep this webinar interactive as possible so please use the chat feature to engage with us throughout the session. Since we are going to use the chat feature when asking your feedback to particular questions, we want to make sure everyone is comfortable using this WebEx feature. Please take a moment to use the chat feature to type in where you’re calling from – listing your city or state would be fine.
  • Have you ever been concerned that a non-negligible fraction of your students may turn in homework solutions that they didn’t not complete on their own? (Perhaps you suspect that your student’s solution came from another student or were found on the internet.)
    Why do you suppose a student would turn in homework that was not his or her own work?
    Do you believe most of your students complete the assigned textbook reading?
    Do you believe most of your students complete most of the assigned homework?
    Why don’t student honestly do the assigned reading and homework?
  • Such an instructor would probably have an easier time than a physics professor. A lion-taming instructor could assign daily readings on lions’ anatomy, physiology and psychology. The instructor could also assign homework problems and essays. Knowing the contents of the final exam, it is unlikely that a student will try to get a friend to write these essays, or turn to the internet for ready-made homework solutions. Students in a lion-taming class would probably do their assigned reading, pay attention in class and keep up with all the homework.
  • Why are students in the lion-taming class motivated?
  • NOTE- do not read student dialogue if we are 30 mins after webinar start time.
    Nicole – Shannon
    Jessica – Avi
    Deb – Cameron
  • Sailing
  • In summary, Deb showed you three ways to use case studies –
    within lecture – as a dialog to address preconceptions
    (2) active learning project 15 min period work in groups on an actual project as part of the case study
    (3) create their own case study
    Of course, there will be a fourth way, once Deb’s book is published. As we mentioned at the beginning of this webinar, Deb is writing a new calculus-based physics textbook – where case studies will be woven into each chapter, and are often revisited in Concept Exercises and worked examples. Real-world examples utilized and returned to throughout a chapter make abstract physics concepts concrete and help bridge the formal language of physics with key concepts.
    This text will include a traditional Table of Contents --- so there’s no need to assign the case studies or take time in class– they would be available for students to read and motivate students– and help them make the connections on their own.
    The goal of the case study approach is to address these student challenges:
    Students often view physics as a series of unrelated facts, concepts, and equations that have little or no bearing to their everyday lives.
    They enter the classroom with misconceptions.
    They cannot connect mathematical formalism and physics concepts, instead relying on memorization.
    Do you have any questions or comments on the approach?
  • Thanks again for your participation in today’s webinar!
    We will send a short follow-up survey within the next few days. We want to hear your feedback on how helpful the session has been for your own teaching. We also would like to learn your interest in participating in various editorial activities as we continue to develop this first edition calculus-based physics program.
    Vol I will be available for class testing in spring 2013 so we let us know if you’re interested in using Deb’s materials with your own students.
    We’ d love to keep the dialog going so please do not hesitate to email Deb or me with any questions or comments. We listed Deb’s email so please take a moment to write it down if you want to stay in touch. You’ll receive an email from me (Nicole Mollica Hurst) by the end of the week so you don’t have to write that one down.
    This concludes our webinar.
    Thanks again!
  • Motivating Students in Introductory Physics

    1. 1. Debora M. Katz Physics Department United States Naval Academy
    2. 2. Agenda  Student Challenges  Motivating Students  Using Case Studies  Questions/Closing Remarks
    3. 3. Student Challenges Do you believe your students complete most of the assigned textbook reading & homework? Why don’t students honestly do the assigned reading and homework?
    4. 4. Lion-taming class For a moment imagine that you are a lion-taming instructor. At the end of a 16-week semester, each of your students takes a final exam, in which each student places his or her own head into the mouth of a live lion.
    5. 5. Question Why will students in a lion-taming class do all the work assigned by their instructor?
    6. 6. Characteristics of a Motivated Student Sees relevance of course and wants to learn And so completes assignments honestly
    7. 7. Question What do you use to motivate your introductory physics students? (Describe what you have tried that works and also include things that haven’t worked as well as you would have liked.)
    8. 8. Case Studies Case studies are traditionally used in medical, business and law schools.
    9. 9. Case Studies A student working through a case study is in the role of practitioner. Like a practitioner, the student is motivated to learn and sees the relevance of the subject matter.
    10. 10. Case Studies Case studies are educational exercises. When a student works on a case study, we expect the highest levels of thinking, reasoning, problem-solving and communication.
    11. 11. Case Studies A case study makes your physics class relevant and fun because it connects physics concepts to  students’ interests  history of scientific discovery  practical applications
    12. 12. How I Use Case Studies 1. Short case studies are used in lectures to motivate students and flush out preconceptions Example: Train collision
    13. 13. Excerpt from my book.
    14. 14. How I Use Case Studies 2. A case study may be used in much the same way as an in-class group problem or project. However, the students are motivated to solve the problem because the case is part of a story. So I may revisit the train collision in the next lesson…
    15. 15. How I Use Case Studies 3. Students in my class write their own case studies as a term project. Create and solve a problem that comes from the material covered in SP212. The problem can include material from any part of this semester’s syllabus and that it should be solvable by a typical student in this class. Your project will be graded on creativity, research, difficulty and solution. Students are highly motivated to solve these deep problems because the problems come from their own interest.
    16. 16. Sample Term Projects 1.Hike till it hurts 2.Mom can I go? 3.Skateboarding accident
    17. 17. Student Response Professor Katz, I am really glad you enjoyed my project! It's one of the few things I did right in the many technical courses here at the Academy lol I really did love doing it and I hope your students have enjoyed working on their projects also! I am sorry you cannot make it but hopefully some people from your department will be able to go. I hope all is well! You are a great teacher and your students are lucky to have you as a Professor! Very Respectfully, Michelle
    18. 18. Thank you!  Follow-up Survey  Webinar Feedback  Development Activities  Volume I Class Testing (Spring 2014) Debora Katz:  Nicole (Mollica) Hurst: