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New 8.02 to Incorporate TEAL Teaching Techniques

By Beckett Sterner

STAFF REPORTER

Starting this spring, Physics II will leave its old lecture format behind for a new teaching style modeled after the Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) version of the class offered in the fall.

The following spring, the Department of Physics intends to merge 8.02X, currently the experiment-based version of the class, and the new 8.02 into one subject. They also plan to introduce a new version of Physics I (8.01) in a similar format that will eventually replace the old 8.01 as well as 8.01X and 8.01L.

Professor of Physics John W. Belcher, who will teach the new 8.02 this spring, said of the new format, “there’s a lot of interest in using technology in education.” He said that students will no longer be “passively sitting in lecture. It’s collaborative learning.”

New class hands-on, lab-based

The computer and lab-based style of teaching in 8.02 was originally developed in the TEAL class offered in the spring of 2001. The TEAL program itself came from a pilot program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute known as “studio physics” that allowed for more direct teacher to student contact. Currently, all students who take 8.02 in the fall take the TEAL version.

The new 8.02 will not be held in Room 26-100, the large lecture hall where the traditional lectures were held, but will move to Room 26-152, known as the TEAL room. Students will sit in round tables of approximately seven students each and will work on in-class lab experiments with the assistance of a faculty member, a graduate student, and several undergraduates.

“I think a lot of the people who were taking 8.02 wished they had a hands-on experiment,” said Thomas J. Greytak ’62, a physics professor and associate department head for education.

Grade based on participation

One of the more radical shifts is that part of students’ final grade will be based on participation in class. Each seat at a table will be equipped with a keypad device with which students will be expected to answer questions posed during class.

Professor of Physics J. David Litster, who is currently teaching the TEAL class, said that by expecting to students to participate, for “the [students] you are failing, it’s harder for them to do nothing, and for ones who don’t get much value out of recitation, they have interesting hands-on things to work with.”

Students’ experiences mixed

In general, it appears that students appreciate the addition of more labs and demonstrations, but are also somewhat uncertain about the new participation based teaching format.

Moira K. Kessler ’06, who is taking 8.02 this semester, said, “I like that [the professor] has people go in front of the microphone and explain why the answer is that way.” She also said, though, that “I kind of wish they would lecture a bit more.”

Given the choice between the old 8.02 and the new TEAL-based version, she said “I’d still prefer [the new one] because it has smaller groups and puts lecture and recitation together.”

Charles S. Han ’05 took the TEAL version of 8.02 last fall and said that he wished they would “tighten it up and make it more challenging.” He said that the class was “not quite as rigorous” as the other offerings, but that the labs “gave a better intuitive understanding” of the material.

Thinking ahead to next semester, Brennan P. Sherry ’06, who is currently taking 8.01, said, “I think it’s probably alright. It’ll keep kids involved and let you know how you’re doing [in class].” He also said, though, that “I like the lecture format. I don’t think [the new format] would improve things.”

Course offerings to merge

While the basic versions of 8.01 and 8.02 are changing, both 8.012 and 8.022, the more mathematically-advanced versions of Physics I and II, will be left unchanged and will still cater to students looking for a more rigorous and theoretical approach to the material.

The new versions of 8.01 and 8.02 will each have their own TEAL room, with 8.02 using the current one in 26-152 and 8.01 eventually moving into a new room being built as part of the Stata Center.

Since combining the classes will essentially mean doubling or tripling the previous version’s size, as many as four or five sections will be scheduled, each held in the TEAL room at a different time. The total number of faculty teaching 8.01 or 8.02 will stay relatively constant.

In terms of the technical difficulties of using computers in the classroom, Litster said, “I hate to compliment Microsoft, but so far the computers have worked.”