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All-TEAL 8.02 Leads To Freshman Gripes

By Jewel Nanda

Despite high hopes and initial success, the mainstream Physics II (8.02), now taught in the Technology Enabled Active Learning format, has left many students unhappy about the new format and unsure of what to expect for the rest of the semester.

The TEAL program, unlike the traditional lecture format, emphasizes a more active, hands-on approach, requiring students to colloborate with fellow group members in efforts to analyze experiments and solve problems.

Students have complained that although the system may show some promise, it is still in need of many revisions.

“I find it difficult to adapt to a system that I’m so unfamiliar with,” said Suzanne E. Luther ’06, a student currently enrolled in 8.02.

“Though there are some things I like about the program, there are other things that I’m rather skeptical about,” Luther said. “I’m not convinced that this may be the best approach for everyone.”

Physics professor and 8.02 instructor John W. Belcher, however, said that the TEAL version has proven to be a significant improvement over the standard lecture format.

“Students through the TEAL version have performed statistically better,” Belcher said. “The program is still in its evolutionary stage, but much is continuously being done to improve the structure of the course.”

Peter Dourmashkin, one of the directors of the 8.02 TEAL program, feels that the program is showing signs of success and that current skepticism generated by students currently enrolled in the course may simply be due to a lack of familiarity with the program.

“The system is very flexible and much is being done to accommodate the interests of all students,” Dourmashkin said. “Our goal is to maximize long term retention of material by maintaining an interactive environment during class hours.”

Students disapprove of groups

Many students said that the methods used to promote an interactive environment and retain students are not too effective, and could use improvement.

Lele Yu ’06, a student who took the TEAL version of 8.02 last fall, resented the group system in which students were divided into groups of three in efforts to encourage collaboration.

She said that “too much depends on the type of group members that you get and how much they participate.” In her case, one of her group members rarely showed up to class.

Rob W. Grimes ’05, who took the course in the fall of 2001, shared similar sentiments. “I was lucky to have group members who were actively involved with me,” he said. “Had I not, I don’t think I would have been able to get much out of the course.”

Dourmashkin, however, said that this is only a temporary issue that may soon be resolved. In the future, he expects groups to be rotated to encourage more active collaboration.

Theory not emphasized

Students who enrolled in the course this term with little or no background in the subject material have also complained that not enough theory is being covered in each session.

“Most of my learning comes from actually reading at home rather from what goes on in class,” said Shirley X. Li ’06, a student currently enrolled in 8.02. “I feel that the two hours I spend in the TEAL room are not efficiently utilized.”

Min Deng ’06 agreed, saying that “too much time was being spent applying concepts and not actually learning them.”

Mubarik F. Imam ’06, who is also enrolled in 8.02, said that it would be best if both the lecture version and the TEAL version were offered simultaneously.

“Not everyone should be obligated to learn through the TEAL program,” said Imam. “Students who prefer the standard lecture format should be able to attend that version of the course.”

If the TEAL program is successful this term, soon Physics I (8.01) may be converted into TEAL as well.